Book Discussion: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks CAUTION ~ Contains SPOILERS ~
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
~~~~Proceed with Caution~~~~
I'm still reading the afterword but the whole book has made me wonder how I'd feel if I found out some of my cells were getting used. I'd be ok with them using my cells, I would just want to know. I'd also like to know how they've helped.
Here's the BBC documentary link
and here's another site you can watch it
#10 - If it was that easy, then in that position maybe I would too. But it isn't. The cells in themselves are worthless, it's what you do to them, and the techniques required to keep them "alive" that count - and that can earn the money. And those parts aren't something any patient can contribute to, or deserve compensation for.
I found the history and details of life in 50s US the most interesting. Closely followed by the revelations regarding Hela contamination of other cell lines which I hadn't heard about.
ETA - full review
Also, I believe the author went to great lengths to clarify that Johns Hopkins has never "profited" from the cell line. Certainly, the hospital could have done more than that but at minimum it was not that institution which made the profits.
The author also set up a foundation to provide educational support to the extended Lacks family and I do not believe she was as exploitative as were the other researchers and authors who interacted with the family.
I think, just like so many things, there really are no clear villains or heroes in this story. The lesson I take away is that more than ever we need health care reform in this country and no one, no matter how poor, should be without access to basic health care.
I'm not sure I'd be in any rush to read another book by Miss Skloot, either. I think she was attempting to tell the personal tale of the cells and reveal the science behind them as well, but tried to do too much.
#22 - Me? LOL Well, hopefully we can reanimate the threads once Morphy get's into it.
I picked up a copy at the DC meet up for 75ers. I think I'll start it next. Be back with comments soon...
I thought there could have been more science in the book, I had several questions left unanswered (like how you can take the results from tests done on abnormal cancer cells and apply them to normal cells or cells with different diseases) but some of these were answered on Skloot's website's FAQs page. Overall, I liked the book and learning the story of the people behind Hela. I think Skloot's did a good thing putting faces to an object (Hela) that tends to be taken for granted.
It does scare me how many people believe the research is more important than the rights and thoughts and welfare of the people they claim to want to help. Like the extreme case of the doctor who, as recently as the 90s!!, was injecting patients and volunteers with cancerous cells without telling them, or if he did tell them, without fully explaining the risks. I do think the research is iimportant but I don't that means we need to run roughshod over others to get results.