You'll love this one...!! A book club & more discussion

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
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Buddy Reads > The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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message 1: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments Who's in for a buddy read during the October Toppler?


Almeta (MenFromMarrs) | 8004 comments Me!Me!Me!Me!


message 3: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat (KatZombie) | 2478 comments Me too!


message 4: by Pragya (new) - added it

Pragya  (reviewingshelf) | 3203 comments I will go buy that book right now. It's been on my TBR since forever.


Amber | 589 comments I'd like to get in on this one also.


message 6: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam (Ecowitch) | 1691 comments I read this as part of Orange August and I can highly recommend it.


message 7: by Pragya (new) - added it

Pragya  (reviewingshelf) | 3203 comments I have the book, can't wait to start reading. :)


Almeta (MenFromMarrs) | 8004 comments Ready also,


message 9: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat (KatZombie) | 2478 comments Ditto!


message 10: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments I've got the audiobook downloaded and ready to start.


message 11: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments I'm not much of a buddy because I started the book a couple of days ago, but I'll still be here to discuss.

Does anyone have any preferences as to how we will go about the discussion? Do you want to have free-flow discussion, or guided questions?


Amber | 589 comments My preference is free-flowing discussion.


message 13: by Pragya (last edited Oct 13, 2012 10:23AM) (new) - added it

Pragya  (reviewingshelf) | 3203 comments I would like Free-flowing discussion.


Shannon (sianin) | 453 comments I read this one not that long ago so if you don't mind me popping into discussion... Hopefully my memory is good enough on it.


message 15: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments You may certainly pop in on the discussion, Shannon. I think there are definitely things that will stick in anyone's memory.


Amber | 589 comments I've made it through the first 117 pages so far (through chapter 15) and all I can say so far is WOW. I think I was expecting this to be more scientific and less personal, and I'm so glad that it's not.

I'm really captivated learning about the lives of the Lackses, and even the scientific part of the story, the biology of the cells, etc, is grabbing my attention, which usually doesn't happen. I hear "science" and a glazed look usually comes over my face.


message 17: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments I really like the personal touch to the history of the Hela cells too. I have 1-1/2 hours left of the audiobook.


message 18: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat (KatZombie) | 2478 comments I've read about 35% of this now - even the science bits are interesting, which is also unusual for me.

Some of the 1950s medical practices are quite shocking though!


message 19: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments I agree, Kat. My mother was a nurse during the 50's which brought things a little closer to home for me.

I can't help but wonder if her death wasn't hastened by the radiation she received. And I wonder if her treatment would have been different if she had been white.


message 20: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat (KatZombie) | 2478 comments It was certainly a very gruesome sounding treatment. Science & medical treatment has certainly progressed since then.

It did sound like she received a different type of care due to her ethnicity - particularly the after-care really sounded like she was just sent home with an aspirin!


message 21: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments I was shocked that the doctor had taken tissue samples without Henrietta's knowledge. It made wonder about my own vulnerablity during surgery.

I guess in the 50's, they never really thought that it was an ethical issue. Presumably, they took samples from other people, and I'm still not understanding why Hela was so active, for lack of a better word.


message 22: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat (KatZombie) | 2478 comments You could just not imagine things like that happening now - the lawyers would be swarming all over it.

The part about Elsie was by far the most shocking part of the book for me so far, I had to read it several times before I could get past the shock and actually absorb the information.


message 23: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments Yes, that was shocking about Elsie. Poor child! What a horrible existence - and not just for her, but for all the inmates in that facility.

The Lack's all seemed to have horrific stories. I find myself asking why some families are plagued by hardship while other families don't. Any thoughts?


message 24: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat (KatZombie) | 2478 comments I think it was just a cycle that they couldn't, and didn't know how, to break.

It's quite mind blowing to think that for all their tragedy, their mother actually contributed to saving, or prolonging the lives of, so many people.

I thought the author did a really good job of portraying all the family, and the people that did the right thing in a very sympathetic light, without a whole pity party - it was personal enough without being completely invasive.

I'm so glad I tried reading this one again - it really shows that our state-of-mind can really affect what we enjoy reading at a particular time!


message 25: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments Did you try before and abandon it? Or is this your second time through?


message 26: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat (KatZombie) | 2478 comments I tried before, but it was not long after my mother passed away from cancer, and hit far too close to home. But reading it was cathartic in a way, because it made me thankful that her treatment was so much better, and far more respectful than poor Henrietta's was.


message 27: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments That would be very difficult to read under those circumstances.

Treatment today, especially in the end stages is focused on pain management. The medical community has long been fixated on the fear that people will become addicted to the pain meds which caused their reluctance to prescribe adequate amounts, even to the dying. I worked as admin support for Home Care for 11 years, and recall the many discussions about the subject.

Poor Henrietta didn't get much relief.


message 28: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat (KatZombie) | 2478 comments I think there are many parts of this book that are still relevant today - one thing that really stood out in the afterword was that it is still possible for doctors to use tissues take from patients during mole biopsies for research, without patient consent, is particularly scary.

Let alone the whole discussion over who 'owns' those tissues and any resulting monetary gains that benefit pharmaceutical/biological companies cannot be contested by the person that 'donated' those tissues...it's really food for thought about those routine medical procedures that we may have!


message 29: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments Exactly. The medical community seems to treat tissues like household garbage. Once you throw something out in the garbage, you no longer have claim to it. So, if you have a mole removed, it's no longer yours. I wonder if some of my "discarded" tissues are still growing in a petri dish somewhere. I've had a lumpectomy and knee replacement. Did they throw it in the incinerator? Or? Makes you wonder.


message 30: by Shannon (last edited Oct 17, 2012 01:23PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Shannon (sianin) | 453 comments Legally, anything that is "thrown out" you no longer have a claim to and that goes for tissue as well. Once you put your garbage can on the street anybody can go through it and retrieve anything and use it for whatever purpose.

I personally am glad that tissues that are removed may be used for research and have led to better treatments and cures. If anyone wanted to use anything removed from me, well, I certainly have no more use for it...

I do feel bad for the family and how little they understood. The best parts of the book for me were when the daughter Deborah talked about her beliefs around her mother's cells.

The biggest takeaway for me is for anyone that is trying to get informed consent. That's a tricky one in whatever setting.

I do know that in early days of medicine, lots of trials and experiments were done on minority populations without any consent, whether they be prisoners, blacks, native or whoever and that was wrong. It sped up medicinal discovery but it was still wrong.

What do you think about Rebecca Skloot herself?


message 31: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments I listened to the audiobook and there was an interview with Rebecca Skloot at the end. She sounded very sincere and close to the family. She sure can talk! LOL!

I was going to ask what everyone thought of the Lacks family reaction to the knowledge that their mother's cells were still alive.

Did they overreact? Was their lack of understanding responsible for their reaction?

It seemed like they thought Henrietta was alive, unable to differentiate between the Henrietta the person and the Hela cells. When the one brother (forgot his name) was reading about everlasting life from the Bible I felt chills. He had taken it very literally.

How do you think you would react if it was your mother's cells?


message 32: by Almeta (last edited Oct 19, 2012 09:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Almeta (MenFromMarrs) | 8004 comments I listened to this book while creating my Toppler projects, so I didn't read it straight through. The lapses in between gave me time to think, and then wanting to get back to it to see what was next.

My views flip flopped constantly. First I was angry at Henrietta for ignoring her previous diagnoses and not returning for treatments. Then I was made to remember that the black community was not really made comfortable enough to trust that they would be treated well….because they weren’t!

I went back and forth on several issues: religious, medical ethics, patient rights, scientific responsibility, family dynamics…on and on...back and forth.

This was quite a thought provoking book. I was very surprised.


Amber | 589 comments I had RL book club yesterday and I recommended this to all of them. And today I was suggesting it to anyone with whom I could strike up a book conversation. I was definitely not prepared for how much I liked this book! :)


message 34: by Janice, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Janice (JaMaSc) | 29892 comments Amber wrote: "I had RL book club yesterday and I recommended this to all of them. And today I was suggesting it to anyone with whom I could strike up a book conversation. I was definitely not prepared for how..."

I've been doing the same thing. I've been getting mixed reactions. Some think it sounds very interesting and others are wrinkling their noses.


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