Tuesday, October 19 2021

By Blake Brittain

(Reuters) – The estate of a black woman whose cervical cells were taken from her decades ago without her permission sued a pharmaceutical company on Monday, claiming she made a “conscious choice” to mass-produce them. cells and profit from a “racially unfair drug”. system.”

The estate of Henrietta Lacks did not “see a dime” of the income Thermo Fisher Scientific generated by cultivating the HeLa cell line which was taken from Lacks at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951, according to the lawsuit filed in the Maryland Federal Court.

“The exploitation of Henrietta Lacks represents the sadly common struggle experienced by blacks throughout the history of the United States. Indeed, the suffering of blacks has fueled countless medical advances and profits, without fair compensation or recognition, “says the trial.

Thermo Fisher, based in Waltham, Mass., Did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer who also represented the families of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown after their deaths, represents the Lacks estate.

Ron Lacks, Henrietta’s grandson, is the executor of her estate.

Lacks’ story was told in the 2010 bestseller and 2017 film titled “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”.

The tissue sample for the HeLa cell line was taken from Lacks in Johns Hopkins during a procedure to treat her cervical cancer, which left her infertile, according to the lawsuit.

Lacks, who was not informed that Johns Hopkins planned to take the samples and did not consent, died of cancer later in the year.

Since then, the HeLa line, the first to survive and reproduce indefinitely under laboratory conditions, has been used to test the polio vaccine, research the effects of radiation on human cells, and develop a treatment for anemia. sickle-shaped, depending on the combination. .

The lawsuit asks the court to attribute the profits from Thermo Fisher’s use of the HeLa line to the Lacks estate and to permanently prevent it from using the line without permission.

“Simply put, because it made the conscious choice to profit from the onslaught of Henrietta Lacks, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s ill-gotten gains rightly belong to Ms. Lacks’ estate,” the lawsuit says.

(Reporting by Blake Brittain; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Aurora Ellis)


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