In 1951, Henrietta Lacks was a mother living in Baltimore, battling cervical cancer. While Lacks suffered and later died from the intense pain and medical testing, she would have no idea that cells taken from her body would be used to advance medicine and change the world. Today on what would have been her 103rd birthday her family is finally receiving some semblance of justice. This morning the family gathered with attorney Benjamin Crump to announce a historic settlement to their 2021 lawsuit against Thermo Fisher Scientific’s use of the cells. The lawsuit argues that the company took the infamous “HELA” cells from researchers at John Hopkins University and continues to profit from the use of the cells even today.
Lack’s story has been turned into several books, documentaries, and even a movie featuring Oprah Winfrey.
However, her family has long argued that they benefited the least from the extraction and commodification of her cells and life story. In 2020, Ron Lacks, the grandson of Henrietta, wrote his own book , entitled, Henrietta Lacks, The Untold Story, addressing some of the misconceptions found in other tales of his grandmother’s life. Ron wanted to ensure that the family’s experiences were told firsthand and that Henrietta was seen as more than just an “impoverished Black woman”. Watch an interview with Ron Lacks below: