Henrietta Lacks estate sues pharmaceutical company for use of her cells

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Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump announcement On Monday that the estate of Henrietta Lacks filed a lawsuit against Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc. on the 70th anniversary of her death from cervical cancer, People reports.

The lawsuit alleges that Thermo Fisher Scientific made a conscious choice to use and benefit from Lacks’ unique cells, even though the company was fully aware that the tissue was obtained without its consent. The estate is asking the court to order the company to “return the full amount of its net profits obtained by marketing the HeLa cell line to the estate of Henrietta Lacks.”

In 1951, Lacks, 31, visited Johns Hopkins where she complained of vaginal bleeding. It was discovered that she had a malignant tumor in the cervix. Tissue samples from her cervix were taken before her death without her permission, and it soon became apparent that her cells were functioning differently. While most cells die quickly after being collected, hers double every 20 to 24 hours, for example. New York Post.

These HeLa cells, as they became known, have proven to be beneficial to researchers and have contributed to some landmark discoveries, ranging from the development of vaccines to the treatment of cancer. During this time, her family never saw a dime from the alleged multibillion dollar corporation that took advantage of cells she was never allowed to use.

Johns Hopkins claims he never sold HeLa cells, but takes responsibility for his failures to be candid with the Lacks family about the use of Henrietta’s tissue. “At several points over these decades, we have seen that Johns Hopkins could – and should have – done more to educate and work with Henrietta Lacks’ family members out of respect for them, their privacy and their interests. personal, ”the university’s website said. bed.

“Indeed, the suffering of blacks has fueled countless medical advances and profits, without fair compensation or recognition,” the lawsuit said. “Various studies, both documented and undocumented, have thrived on the dehumanization of blacks. ”

Christopher Seeger, lawyer for the Lacks family, has hinted that other biotech companies may face a similar lawsuit in the future.

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