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Maryland woman's family sues company using her 'stolen' cells

Henrietta Lacks-Lawsuit
Posted at 2:07 PM, Oct 05, 2021

The family of a Maryland Black woman is suing a biotech company to use her cells without her knowledge or consent.

According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit alleges that doctors at Johns Hopkins in 1951 took samples from Henrietta Lacks' cervix during a procedure without her knowledge or permission before she died of cervical cancer.

CNN reported that Lacks died later that year from cancer.

According to the lawsuit, doctors realized after biopsying the cells, nicknamed HeLa cells, lived instead of dying and were used in research.

The cells ultimately played a critical role in medical advancements, including developing the polio vaccine, in-vitro fertilization, and even COVID-19 vaccines.

However, Lacks' estate alleges that Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., of Waltham, Massachusetts, knowingly mass-produced and sold her tissue without her or her family's permission.

According to the AP, Johns Hopkins said it never sold or profited from the cell lines. Still, the family's attorney, Ben Crump, said companies had made billions from the genetic material “stolen” from Lacks’ body.