On this day: Henrietta Lacks, the immortal woman, was born
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On this day in history, Aug. 1, 1920, Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose cervical cancer cells change the medical field and millions of lives was born.
Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Gynecology Department took a sample of Lacks’ cervical cancer and gave it to a biomedical lab for research without her consent. After Lacks died, leaving five children behind, Johns Hopkins researchers announced that they have successfully found a cell that perfectly replicated itself, calling them HeLa cells after the patient they were from, Henrietta Lacks.
HeLa cells were sold to other institutions for research purposes, fostering many groundbreaking medical advancements, including vaccines, yet Lacks’ family was never financially compensated.
The book and movie, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, brought national attention to the ethics of how Johns Hopkins profited off of the HeLa cells. The standards of consent have changed because of Lacks’ story.
Karen Rader, a professor of history of American biomedicine and science at Virginia Commonwealth University, explores the history and ethics of Henrietta Lack’s cells being used, and how HeLa cells changed the world in NBC12′s history podcast, “How We Got Here”:
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