The family of Henrietta In Missing, a Black woman whose cells were taken from her without her consent in the 1950s and led to widespread medical success, is suing a pharmaceutical company for help in her cell, human rights lawyer Ben Crump announced Monday.
Known as HeLa cells, cells from the immune system have led to progress in various areas of treatment, including the promotion of prevention, cancer treatment and the search for AIDS. But Missing never accepted tissue removal while she was being treated for cancer in a separate ward hospital in Maryland a month before she died.
Crump, who first represented the Lacks family homes earlier this year, said Thermo Fisher Scientific, a multibillion-dollar drug company, has deliberately sold products containing Lacks’ cell line in what is equivalent to “medical discrimination”.
“This case means more to (Lack of family) than just legal petition. That’s the purpose of this black family,” Crump said at a news conference with Lacks’ grandchildren in Baltimore on Monday.
The lawsuit alleges that the company was improperly enriched through profits from cells. A spokesperson for Thermo Fisher Scientific did not immediately respond to a request for USA TODAY to comment.
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Missing, 38, was being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951 for cervical cancer when, at the time of the incident, Dr. George Gey collected a tissue sample from a tumor on his body without his knowledge.
Unlike other cells he had worked with Gey, Lack ‘continued to divide and was working out of his body in experimental tests. It allowed searchers to test them and to allow the phone to be shared widely.
These practices have led to infertility, Crump said. He died later that year, and his family was unaware that his cells had been confiscated and used for research until decades later.
Crump described the missing pain in the last months of his life as a result of the procedure. Although Missing, he said, was tested, his experience was similar to that of other black people who were mistreated in the medical system throughout history.
The lack of cells has become the cornerstone of modern medicine and has made it possible for many pharmaceutical companies to do so, but his family has not seen financial support, Crump said.
A total of two Nobel prizes were awarded for research with the help of HeLa cells, and cells were included in about 70,000 studies published, according to the British Society for Immunology. Among the major causes of cell deficiency are polio and the ability to differentiate viral infections, which can lead to AIDS.
Crump says Thermo Fisher Scientific has also sought intellectual property rights to products that use Lacks’ cells even though the company is aware that Lack did not allow cells to be confiscated.
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The missing story gained international attention in 2010 bestseller “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lies.” HBO made the movie based on the book in 2017, which featured Oprah Winfrey.
Redesigned focus on Missing ‘issue also comes within the scope of global efforts to reduce inequality in ECVID-19 vaccines. Since the outbreak of the disease, health officials in the United States have made efforts to address the reluctance of vaccines in some Black communities caused by mistrust and abuse for decades in medical institutions.
Crump criticized Hopkins’ treatment for dementia at the time, saying the disappearance and other black women “were used as laboratory rats.”
The hospital did not immediately respond to a US TODAY request for comment. Hopkins states that on its website the removal of two patients without their consent at the time of the incident took place at the time and there was no established practice of receiving permission. It has never had rights or benefits from Lacks’ cell, the hospital also says.
The Lacks family worked with Crump in July to investigate potential suspects, including major drug companies. Crump represented several black American families killed by police, including Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The Baltimore Sun reported at a time when the lawyer had not yet heard the case against Hopkins.
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Chris Seeger, a well-known lawyer who works with Trump on the case, said Thermo Fisher Scientific may be the only company currently facing legal action from the family, but “they should not feel lonely either.”
Ron Lacks, one of Henrietta Lacks’ grandsons, said her family’s claims of seeking justice for her grandmother were often unheard of, but she felt confident by the lawyers working on the case.
“It’s time. Here, seventy years later, we mourn Henrietta Lack and we will celebrate taking over the administration of Henrietta Lack,” Ron Lacks said Monday, which marked 70 years of his death. “This will not be passed on to another generation of Lacks.”