By Melanie Eversley
The estate of Henrietta Lacks, the late Black Baltimore woman whose cells were taken by medical researchers without her consent, is suing a biotechnology corporation for the profits.
The HeLa line of cells (so named after Henrietta Lacks’ name) has been credited with a host of invaluable medical advances, including cancer research, the development of the polio vaccine and better understanding of the AIDS virus.
The lawsuit alleges that Thermo Fisher Scientific “ … made a conscious choice to sell and mass produce the living tissue of Henrietta Lacks despite the corporation’s knowledge that Lacks’ tissue had been taken from her without her consent by doctors at Johns Hopkins (University) Hospital,” according to a statement by civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who is working with the lawyers representing Lacks’ estate.
The cell-removal procedure rendered Lacks infertile, and did nothing to abate the cervical cancer that led to her death in 1951, according to the statement.
The suit seeks to compel Thermo Fisher Scientific to share the profits it’s made from the cell line with the Lacks family. The corporation based in Waltham, Mass., has not responded publicly.