S4L Book Club – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The tissue samples taken from Henrietta begin to grow…something that had never happened before.  George Gey agrees to share the growing cells.

  1. Comment on your perception of the sterility of the Gey’s lab.
  2. Why do you think George Gey agreed to share the cells?

Categories: Reading

7 replies »

  1. I wasn’t able to get a hold of a copy of this book, so I’ll miss out on good stimulating discussion this time around. I’ll read along with the blog, though.

  2. I loved George and Margaret Gey, and I’d like to learn more about them.

    The sterility of the Gey’s lab was top notch–at least for the time–all due to experience Margaret had in hospitals–surgeries, I think; I don’t remember.

    They built their labs on their own, often from scavenged materials. Extreme DIYers, to be sure. I’m curious how they managed to create such a sterile environment under those circumstances. I’m fascinated by their resourcefulness and creativity.

    George’s enthusiasm for research was limitless–that’s why he generously and willingly shared the cells. He gave away ALL of the original stock, keeping none for himself. Clearly, he wasn’t thinking about or concerned about profiting from them.

    It made me sad that the Lacks family seemed never to understand the good intentions, enthusiasm, and perspective of the Geys; they were convinced George was the primary Bad Guy. But he treated Henrietta and her cells they same way he wanted to be treated: When George was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he offered himself up to research and wanted very much to have his cells sampled, cultured, and used in research. I have a hard time condemning a man who treated someone else the way he wanted to be treated.

  3. Bummer, Shell. This is a great book, and I was looking forward to your professional as well as personal opinions.

    I especially loved–and think you would love–the way the author wove the different story threads together. I thought the presentation was clear, logical, and blended beautifully. A difficult job well done.

  4. I have the book on my wish list from; I hope it becomes available soon. Does it read like a novel? I’ll let you know when I read it so that we can share some thoughts.

  5. I agree, and that’s why I like it so much. I learned a lot about science, and a lot about people, yet it was never too heavy for my tired brain at the end of a long day.

    Jen, I also agree about the sterility and about George’s character.

  6. Ditto on all points. Although there is a lot of material and information offered, this was not a technical read.
    I think the lab was very clean and I also liked the Geys very much. Initially, I felt some of the presentation was a bit heavy-handed and I was afraid that this was going to be very negative to the researchers- especially white ones. But that didn’t turn out to be the case.