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Henrietta Lacks estate sues company for cell use – The Journal

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Henrietta Lacks’ estate sued a pharmaceutical company on Monday, claiming it was selling its cervical cells without its knowledge or consent.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) – The estate of Henrietta Lacks sued a pharmaceutical company on Monday, accusing it of selling cells that doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital took from the black woman in 1951 without her knowing or without his consent.

The cells taken from the woman who died of cervical cancer, known as HeLa cells, have been reproduced endlessly since then, used in countless scientific and medical innovations, including the development of the vaccine against polio and genetic mapping.

The “HeLa cell line, became the first successfully cloned human cells, and has since been used continually” for research which has touched upon almost all areas of medicine, “the estate’s attorneys said in a press release.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., of Waltham, Mass., Knowingly mass-produced and sold tissue taken from Lacks by hospital doctors and “a racially unfair medical system,” claims the federal lawsuit of his estate.

The lawsuit asks the Baltimore court to order Thermo Fisher Scientific to “return the full amount of its net profits obtained by marketing the HeLa cell line to the estate of Henrietta Lacks.” He is also seeking an order permanently banning Thermo Fisher Scientific from using the HeLa cell line without the permission of the estate.

On its website, the company says it generates around $ 35 billion in annual revenue. A company spokesperson did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

The remarkable science – and the impact on the Lacks family – has been documented in a bestselling book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”. Oprah Winfrey portrayed her daughter in an HBO story film.

A group of white Johns Hopkins doctors in the 1950s attacked black women with cervical cancer, cutting tissue samples from their patients ‘cervixes without or without their patients’ knowledge. their consent, according to the lawsuit.

“The exploitation of Henrietta Lacks represents the sadly common struggle experienced by blacks throughout history,” says the lawsuit. “Indeed, the suffering of blacks has fueled countless medical advances and profits, without fair compensation or recognition. Various studies, both documented and undocumented, have thrived on the dehumanization of blacks. “

Among the family’s estate attorneys is Ben Crump, a Florida-based civil rights attorney. Crump has gained national notoriety in recent years for representing the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd – black people whose deaths at the hands of police and vigilantes helped revitalize a national movement towards reform police and racial justice.

Johns Hopkins says he has reviewed his interactions with Lacks and his family over more than 50 years after the 2010 publication of Rebecca Skloot’s book.

“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, ”Johns Hopkins said. on its website.

FILE – This file photo, April 26, 2007, shows the exterior of Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., in Waltham, Mass. Henrietta Lacks’ estate sued a pharmaceutical company on Monday, Oct.4, 2021, which she said was selling cells that Johns Hopkins doctors took from the black Maryland woman in 1951 without her knowledge or consent. The federal lawsuit filed Monday in Baltimore indicates that Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., of Rockville, Md., Knowingly mass-produced and sold tissue taken from Lack. (AP Photo / Stephan Savoia, file)


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