• Malana Perkins

Henrietta Lacks’ Estate Files Lawsuit Against Biotech Firm

On October 4, 2021, Henrietta Lacks’ estate with Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical company, Thermo Fisher Scientific, who used Lacks’ cells for biomedical research without any consent from Lacks’ or her family.

Henrietta Lacks was a black woman in the early 1900s who was diagnosed with cervical cancer and later died in 1951 in Baltimore, MD at the age of 31.

During her treatment at the John Hopkins Medical Center, doctors extracted cells from her body and then expanded it without Lacks’ consent. This created the famous “HeLa Cell Line” which is still used for biomedical research and has been incorporated in vaccines to this day.

It was announced on Attorney Ben Crump’s Law twitter account that he will hold a news conference in regard to Lacks’ family injustice in receiving consent and compensation for the cells of Lacks that are constantly utilized and capitalized in the medical field as it marks the 70th anniversary of the procedure.

“Thermo Fisher Scientific’s choice to continue selling HeLa cells in spite of the cell lines’ origin and the concrete harms it inflicts on the Lacks family can only be understood as a choice to embrace a legacy of racial injustice embedded in the U.S. research and medical systems,” Crump said. “Black people have the right to control their bodies. And yet Thermo Fisher Scientific treats Henrietta Lacks’ living cells as chattel to be bought and sold.”

It is still unknown what Lacks’ estate specifically demands from Thermo Fisher Scientific, but they generally want justice and the acknowledgement from the biotech firm as that first step. More information about this case will be updated as the journey continues