WHO Honors Henrietta Lacks as Family Pursues Justice

October 14, 2021 – The World Health Organization honored Henrietta Lacks, the black woman whose cells were unknowingly taken for scientific research, this week as her family continues to fight to protect her legacy.

Lax cells, known as “HeLa”, are the only known human cells that continue to survive and Reproduction outside of human body. When someone dies, their cells usually die soon after. But its cells have been used for decades in medical discoveries and life-saving treatments.

“By honoring Henrietta Lacks, WHO recognizes the importance of accounting for past scientific injustices, and promoting racial equality in health and science,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday. “It’s also an opportunity to learn about women – especially women of color – who have made amazing but often invisible contributions to medical science.”

Lawrence Lacks, 87-year-old son of Henrietta Lacks, accepted the award on her behalf.

seeking justice

The ceremony came just over a week after the Henrietta Lacks family took action against the widespread and unauthorized commercial use of HeLa. cells, as well as searching for “ownership” of cells.

On October 4, the Lacks family sued pharmaceutical company Thermo Fisher Scientific, for selling HeLa cells in bulk and at a high price — the company generates nearly $35 billion in revenue each year — while, according to the lawsuit, the Lacks family never benefited financially.

In 1951, the year the doctors At Johns Hopkins Hospital, cellular tissue was cut from Lacks’ cervix while she was receiving treatment for cervical cancer, and doctors didn’t need to ask permission to take samples.

But the lawsuit alleges that the multi-billion dollar company continued to generate incredible income, even after knowing origins of HeLa cells.

The suit asks the court to order Thermo Fisher Scientific “to rescind the full amount of its net profit obtained through the marketing of a Henrietta Lacks drug Henrietta Lacks Hela cell line.”

HeLa cells are valued at between $400 and thousands of dollars per vial, The Wall Street Journal mentioned.

HeLa cells allow scientists to run endless tests of the best understand The human body and what it can do, which led scientists to understand the effects of polio on the body, which helped produce the polio vaccine.

HeLa cells have also been flown into space to understand the body’s reaction to zero gravity.

Restoring Trust – Globally

For some, the Lacks family’s victory in court opens a controversial page in American history, one full of controversy.

“If you think about the context in which her cells were taken 70 years ago, what was happening in America with all these ‘medical experiments’ amounted to medical racism,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump, a member of the legal team representing the Lacks family, said in A recent press conference.

One notable example cited by Crump is the Tuskegee study of syphilis, which occurred between 1932 and the mid-1970s.

Black men with syphilis were told they were receiving treatment, when they were already being studied to understand the disease’s aggressiveness. Even after penicillin became the standard treatment for syphilis in 1943, the experiment continued, and many died as a result.

The effects of betrayal can still be felt today amid COVID-19 and early vaccination efforts. Studies have shown that many blacks were highly skeptical about getting a COVID-19 vaccine, with medical mistrust of past events playing a major role.

“This is amazing [lawsuit] It’s historic, not only because it will benefit her family, but finally, America can deal with trying to do better, and be better, when it comes to medical racism.”

Other countries also deal with a racist past through Lax’s story.

In England, a life-size bronze statue of Lax was unveiled on October 4 at the University of Bristol.

It is the first public statue of a black woman – made by a black woman – in the UK, BBC mentioned.

“Given her heritage as an African American woman, and Bristol’s connection to the slave trade, this is an important statement for Bristol,” Helen Wilson-Roe, artist who created sculpture, he said at the unveiling ceremony.

More than 2,000 voyages from Africa to the Americas, carrying more than half a million slaves, were financed by Bristol merchants from 1698 to 1807, according to Bristol Free Museums and Historic Homes.

More than medicine

Crump said that the Lacks family’s court victory could represent not only justice in the health care system, but also that blacks are seen as equal players in society.

“Often discussed in the black community, why Henry Ford’s family could determine his legacy and make use of his legacy, the Dupont family could determine legacy And taking advantage of his legacy, Rockefeller’s legacy, Kennedy’s legacy…” he said.

“But when it comes to black people, can others define our legacy and others benefit from our legacy?”

“We are trying to make sure it is [Lacks’s] A family can reap benefits for future generations, for its children and for its children even now not yet born. “


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