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Lawsuit filed in case of Henrietta Lacks whose cells were used for medical research without consent

Case filed on 70th anniversary of Lacks' death
Posted at 8:41 AM, Oct 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-04 19:00:36-04

BALTIMORE, Md. — A landmark lawsuit will be announced Monday in the case of an African-American woman who had her cancerous cells taken without her permission, decades ago.

Those cells belonged to Henrietta Lacks, who lived in Turner Station near Dundalk.

The cell tissue was taken from her in the 1950's for research, while she was being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Lacks died at Johns Hopkins Hospital at the age of 31 on October 4, 1951, yet her cells live on.

Lacks’ cells are still being used for medical research to this day.

The Lacks family was never compensated for the use of her cell tissue, while pharmaceutical companies made billions of dollars.

The lawsuit will be filed on Monday, which was the 70th anniversary of her death.

The lawyer for the families of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd also hopes to bring justice to the family of Henrietta Lacks.

It was considered common practice at the time to take those cells, however, Lacks’ cells also were reproduced without her consent for medical research.

Now, 70 years later, her loved ones hope to right a wrong on her behalf.

Lacks came to Johns Hopkins in 1951 to be treated for cervical cancer but she didn't survive.

However, the lawsuit is against a bio-tech corporation called Thermo Fisher Scientific.

The suit claims that Thermo Fisher Scientific made a conscious choice to sell and mass produce lacks living tissue cells her without her consent.

Attorney Crump's lawsuit also claims the taking of lacks cells is considered part of a larger controversy to harvest tissue for medical research from Black women in racially segregated wards during the 1950s.

Crump says the procedure not only made her infertile but didn't stop the spread of her cervical cancer.

Henrietta Lacks' cells are commonly known as the HeLa cell line, using the first two letters of her first and last names.

Her cells became the first human cells successfully cloned and have been used extensively in medical research for 70 years.

The lawsuit accuses Thermo Fisher Scientific of “unjust enrichment” as a “conscious wrongdoer."

It states “in the last several years, Thermo Fisher Scientific has made staggering profits in the tens of millions of dollars by using the HeLa cell line, all while Ms. Lacks’ estate and family haven’t seen a dime of it.”

Thermo Fisher Scientific is a multi-billion dollar corporation based out of Massachusetts but it also has several offices in Maryland, including one in Halethorpe.