Henrietta Lacks Family Reaches Settlement in Landmark Lawsuit against Thermo Fisher Scientific
In a groundbreaking legal victory, the family of Henrietta Lacks has reached a settlement with Thermo Fisher Scientific, the biotechnology company accused of unjustly profiting from her cells. The lawsuit, filed in 2021 by Lacks’ descendants and represented by prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, alleged that Thermo Fisher had enriched itself from the use of HeLa cells without the family’s consent, reaping billions of dollars from a racially biased medical system.
HeLa Cells: A Legacy of Medical Advancement
Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman, underwent a cervical cancer biopsy at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s. Unbeknownst to her, the tissue obtained from her tumor became the first human cells to thrive and reproduce continuously in lab dishes. This marked the beginning of HeLa cells, a cell line that played an essential role in various scientific breakthroughs, including the development of the polio vaccine, genetic mapping, and even COVID-19 vaccines.
The scientific community recognized the significance of HeLa cells, but the story of their origin remained hidden for decades. Lacks tragically passed away at the age of 31, and her cells became the cornerstone of modern medicine. However, her family never received proper recognition or compensation for the immense contributions her cells made to the medical field.
The Legal Battle for Justice
Enter Ben Crump, the renowned civil rights attorney who secured a historic $27 million settlement for George Floyd’s family. With Lacks’ descendants as his clients, he embarked on a mission to rectify the injustice that had long plagued the family. The lawsuit targeted Thermo Fisher, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, which was accused of benefiting from HeLa cells without proper authorization or compensation.
Thermo Fisher fought back, arguing that the case should be dismissed due to the statute of limitations. However, the Lacks family contended that the company’s continuous benefits should exempt it from such limitations.
A Landmark Settlement
On what would have been Henrietta Lacks’ 103rd birthday, her family and Thermo Fisher Scientific announced a settlement in the Baltimore federal court. The terms of the agreement remain confidential, and both parties expressed satisfaction with finding a resolution outside of the courtroom.
The Lacks family’s struggle and the impact of HeLa cells on their lives were eloquently documented in Rebecca Skloot’s bestselling book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” This poignant narrative captured the attention of the world, shedding light on the uncredited contribution of a Black woman to scientific progress.
Racism in the Medical System
The exploitation of Henrietta Lacks exemplifies a long-standing issue of racism in the U.S. medical system. Her descendants’ lawsuit argued that Black people have historically endured similar struggles, being deprived of recognition and compensation for their contributions to medical advancements.
Johns Hopkins Medicine, where Lacks’ cells were originally obtained, issued a statement acknowledging ethical responsibility but stated that they had never profited from the HeLa cell line. Nonetheless, many companies had patented ways to utilize HeLa cells, raising further questions about ownership and compensation.
A Bittersweet Resolution
While the settlement marks a significant step towards recognizing Henrietta Lacks’ legacy, it also raises broader questions about ethics and justice in medical research. The impact of her cells on countless lives cannot be understated, and now, her family has finally achieved a measure of closure and control over her DNA code.
In this turning point of history, we remember Henrietta Lacks not only for her involuntary contribution to science but also as a symbol of the ongoing struggle for racial equality in the medical field. Her story serves as a reminder that the pursuit of knowledge and medical progress should never come at the cost of ethics and the rights of individuals.
H2: The Henrietta Lacks Legacy Lives On
In the end, Henrietta Lacks’ story is not just about a legal battle or a scientific breakthrough; it is a testament to the resilience of a family seeking justice and recognition. As her descendants honor her memory, the impact of HeLa cells continues to reverberate throughout the medical world, forever changing the course of science and medicine. Let this landmark settlement be a catalyst for change and a commitment to ensuring that the contributions of all individuals, regardless of race or background, are rightfully acknowledged and celebrated in the pursuit of knowledge and progress.
Download our app MadbuMax on the Apple App Store for the latest news and financial tools. Interested in getting your finances in order do not forget to check Dr. Paul Etienne’s best-seller book on personal finance. To access more resources, tools, and services please click here. Also, do not forget to follow Dr. Etienne on IG or Twitter.