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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Henrietta Lacks’ Legacy and the Fight for Ethical Medical Research

Verizon Class Action Lawsuit

Imagine a world in which your cells form the pillar of medical research and you are totally unaware of it. Well, that’s precisely what happened to someone, and yes, this is the biography of Henrietta Lacks, a woman whose cells were removed without her consent back in 1951. Later known as HeLa cells, these cells proved to be really important for research since they could proliferate endlessly in a lab. For many medical advancements, this changed the game. Though, the worst part is that Henrietta and her family were left in the dark and never paid compensation, which really was the beginning of this long-standing Thermo Fisher Hela Cells Lawsuit. Let’s get to know more about it by going in-depth.


What Started This Thermo Fisher Hela Cells Lawsuit?

You see, doctors at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital, treating cervical cancer, removed cells from Henrietta without telling her, and that was back in 1951. These were the first human cells scientists could clone as they possessed a special capacity to multiply every 20 to 24 hours. HeLa cells enable polio vaccination, cancer treatments, HIV/AIDS, leukemia, and Parkinson’s illness among some other things. And just as you know, Henrietta, though, never knew her cells were being used on such a massive scale. Only decades later, her family learned the truth and highlighted important ethical concerns, particularly in relation to the use of Black people in medical research.


The Great Legal Battle

By 2021, Henrietta Lacks’ estate determined that was enough. They sued the massively biased biotech company Thermo Fisher Scientific. The allegations were made that HeLa cells were obtained without permission, and the firm was making a fortune off of them. Seeking financial reimbursement, the Lacks family insisted the business stop using the cells without authorization, and yes, representing the Lacks estate, civil rights attorney Ben Crump underlined the more general problem of pharmaceutical firms profiteering on Black people.


Later on though, as the lawsuit grew, we came to know that Thermo Fisher Scientific (which generates around $35 billion a year) was benefitting from HeLa cells. The lawsuit sought to guarantee that the corporation would stop exploiting the cells without appropriate permission and that these earnings would belong to Lacks’ estate.


A Historic Settlement

Then came August 1, 2023, and brought a settlement. Though the specifics were kept under wraps, both sides claimed satisfaction. The news of the settlement coincided with the 103rd birthday of Henrietta Lacks, therefore adding another level of symbolic justice, you know? For Henrietta and her family, attorney Ben Crump said this settlement yielded justice, respect, and dignity.


Why Does All Of This Even Matter?

All in all, the medical research community gets ripples from the settlement of this litigation. It underlines patient rights and the need for informed permission. It might affect patient informedness and compensation as well as the usage of human cells in research.


Nowadays, the scientific community is looking back on past methods and thinking about legislative reforms on the usage of human cells. Rebecca Skloot’s book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and its HBO adaptation have brought to light Henrietta Lacks’s narrative, therefore increasing public awareness of these important ethical concerns in the entire world.


Parul is an experienced blogger, author and lawyer who also works as an SEO content writer, copywriter and social media enthusiast. She creates compelling legal content that engages readers and improves website visibility. Linkedin

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