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on November 16, 2010
I'm a scientist and have used HeLa cells for many years, with only a vague idea of where they had come from. This terrific book brings a human side to the early days of cell culture and also a fascinating insight into some more modern problems (cell-line contamination) as well as to historical ones (racism and institutionalization), both of which we hope are going away... The book is well-written and obviously a labor of love for both its author and Ms. Lacks's relatives. Thank you for writing this! I'll recommend it to everyone I know.
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on May 15, 2016
This is one of the most powerful books I have read.

Before I read this, I knew the briefest sketch background that Henrietta Lacks had been black, diagnosed with cancer, and that HeLa had been derived from her cancerous cells. I knew that HeLa was one of the most used cell lines, utilized in vaccine development, cancer research, everything.

Read this, truly read this. There is a lot to take in, the direct story, as well as the indirect - changes in bedside manner, how information is relayed to patients, how consent is obtained. (And, how it is still not obtained in some cases, as in the matter of research involving fetal blood samples within the last decade)

Honour Henrietta Lacks, and her unwilling contribution to medicine - for her cells were not donated, but a biopsy sample which was found useful. That sample was then grown and grown again, given to colleagues, and someone else then created a biological for-profit company based on selling samples of her cells.

In the words of Henrietta's daughter Deborah: "If you gonna go into history, you can't do it with a hate attitude. You got to remember, times was different."

At the same time, it isn't right that profits are derived from the family's genetic material - and they have had their genetic data published, without permission, numerous times.
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on January 10, 2011
Any review by wife or myself of this book in the print version would be high - it is an exceptional book in its content. The manner in which it has been researched and then dialogued is just short of brilliant. However, to listen to "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" in our car while driving is a special occasion indeed.

Unlike a novel, there is no need to remember the characters, the plot line and the passage. We, the listeners are being treated to a verbal exposé of illuminating, amazing, albeit shameful scientific facts behind a medical methodology that has aided and provided benefit for millions of people in the need of medical solutions and aid.

The author insinuates herself into the book in a playful but purposeful manner which lends immediate personality to the facts as if a story is being told; it is in fact a story - just a true one. Whenever we stop and turn the engine off to get ready to disembark from our SUV, we almost always pause and listen to a conclusion of the particular topic or thought of the author Rebecca Skloot. When we walk away, the interactions within the book leave us with plenty to talk about if others daily routines do not have the power to intercept and give priority to... In print it would be a book 'one would not want to put down', in the car it is one to take on a l-o-o-n-g journey.
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on January 22, 2012
I had a difficult time putting this book down; it is fascinating, thrilling, intellectually stimulating yet deeply moving as well. Thank goodness Ms. Skloot investigated and recorded the story of Henrietta Lacks; had more time passed, the information and people that assisted in this wonderful investigation into Ms. Lacks' life would have been gone, the story behind this amazing medical phenomenon, lost. It makes one wonder what other stories about interesting, important yet unsung heroes can no longer be written because of the passage of time and the death of people who knew them. I am thankful that Ms. Skloot had the interest and drive to see this investigation through, along with the Lacks family.

The book was a combination of science thriller, mystery novel, and wonderful human-interest story. There are not many times after reading a book that I've felt I've learned about something truly significant, yet I felt this way after reading The Immortal Life of Henrieta Lacks.
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on April 17, 2011
as a physician who liked immunology the least of anything(except perhaps the anatomy of the knee) I studied in med school, this book really made me rethink my concepts. Amazing perseverance and dedication by the author to get the information needed to make this book so important--much moreso than just the biography of this truly unsung hero. In addition, it makes one question the ethics of consent, etc. Beyond just its factual historical import, the power of the author's writing was an unexpected benefit. There was scene toward the end of the book with a religious overtone that was so powerfully written, it almost had this non-theist Unitarian singing hallelujan!! Awesome read--one of the best books I have read in some time
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on November 14, 2013
Wow! This is the best book I've read this year. It has something for everyone. Ms. Skloot writes so well that the reader lives in her story. The themes range from bio-medical ethics, to racism and poverty, to questions about the responsibility of the medical community toward patients who lack the education necessary to understand their condition and finally to what claims we ought to have toward our own tissues and who can profit from them. This is a book rich in thought-provoking questions. At another level it is also the story of an authour's relationship with a family devastated by the untimely death of their mother and the family's quest to understand who she was and who she continues to be.
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on January 8, 2011
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a very interesting and well written book; it was a pleasure to read. In it, Rebecca Skloot basically documents the family history of Henriatta Lacks family; how the HeLa cell line was born and more importantly how the family was totally unaware that the cell line even existed until 2 decades later, and even then the information they were provided with was scarce.

The book also provides an interesting perspective on the evolution of medical practice and ethics over the last half century. Throughout the book, Skloot provides a very balanced stance on the main issues involved which greatly increases the appeal of the book.
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on April 4, 2011
While Rebecca Skloot does discuss the Scientific background to the HeLa cells. The power of the book is truly the life of Henrietta Lacks and her children. Rebecca's patience with getting an interview, being put in unknown situations, all so that she can share the story behind the cells. I strongly recommend this book to anyone intertested in Science, Black History, History in general.... well really anyone who loves a great read!!
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on March 29, 2010
This is an engaging book, and very well written. This is a must-read for anyone working with cells in culture. The history alone makes you appreciate how far things have come and how much easier our lives are thanks to these people. The ethical issues are thought-provoking. Rebecca Skloot does a fantastic job of presenting both sides of the argument. Also, she is able to present complex scientific ideas in a simple, easy to understand manner. I highly recommend this book.
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on June 1, 2011
I have been an avid reader for over 65 years, I read all kinds of books.
This book is one of the most fascinating, interesting book I have ever read. If you only read one book in your life, read this one.
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