Lacks, a black woman, was suffering from cervical cancer when she was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. A surgeon removed cells from her cervix without her consent during a procedure and this sample allowed a doctor to the hospital created the first human cell line to reproduce outside the body.
The cell line, now known as HeLa cells, allowed scientists to experiment with and create life-saving drugs, including the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, and gene mapping, in addition to helping to advance cancer and AIDS research.
“In honor of Henrietta Lacks, the WHO recognizes the importance of taking into account the scientific injustices of the past and advancing racial equity in health and science,” said Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a statement. “It’s also an opportunity to recognize women, especially women of color, who have made incredible but often invisible contributions to medical science.”
Several of Lacks ’grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other grandchildren attended the award ceremony at the WHO office in Geneva. His 87-year-old son, Lawrence Lacks, Sr., accepted the award on his behalf.
“We are moved to receive this historic recognition from my mother, Henrietta Lacks, in honor of who she was a remarkable woman and the lasting impact of her HeLa cells. My mother’s contributions, once hidden, are now being legitimately honored for its global impact, “Lawrence Lacks said in a statement.
“My mother was a pioneer in life, she returned to her community, she helped others live better and cared for others,” she added. “In death he continues to help the world. His legacy remains in us and we thank you for saying his name: Henrietta Lacks.”
The family is suing a biotech company for unauthorized use of their cells
At the time of the Lacks procedure, taking cells from people without their consent was not against the protocols.
The lawsuit alleges that Thermo Fisher Scientific is knowingly benefiting from the “illegal conduct” of Johns Hopkins doctors and that its “ill-gotten gains legitimately belong to Ms. Lacks’ Estate.”
He argues that the company “makes a conscious decision to sell and mass-produce the living fabric of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman, grandmother and community leader, despite the corporation’s knowledge that Mrs. Lacks’ fabric went to her. removed without their consent.by Johns Hopkins Hospital doctors and an unjust racial medical system. “
The lawsuit states that with this widespread recognition, Thermo Fisher Scientific cannot say it was unaware of the history of its products containing HeLa cells and points to a page on the company’s website acknowledging that the cells were taken without Lacks’ consent. Depending on demand, there are at least 12 products marketed by Thermo Fisher that include the HeLa cell line.
Thermo Fisher Scientific generates annual revenues of approximately $ 35 billion, according to its website. CNN has contacted the company to comment.
CNN’s Taylor Romine contributed to this report.[ad_2]