The global health agency, the World health organization (WHO) has felicitated the late Henrietta Lacks for donating her cells to be used in innovative scientific studies. Scientists have been using her donated cells in their research for decades. She has been awarded by the WHO for her contribution to the innovation of medical science. Late Henrietta Lacks was a Black woman. She had been diagnosed with cervical cancer while she was admitted to the John Hopkins Hospital in 1951. As per the report, a surgeon has removed cells from her cervix without her permission during a medical procedure. With that cell sample, scientists have been able to develop the first human cell line outside the body. That cell line is widely known as HeLa cells. HeLa cells have helped experts to develop life-saving drugs along with the polio vaccine. Scientists have been able to develop in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and gene mapping as well with the help of the first human cell line. It has helped in cancer and AIDS advance research as well. Health officials from the WHO has said that though doctors have not been able to save Henrietta Lacks, her impact on medical research is immortal. Therefore, the global health agency has decided to honor her with the WHO Director-General’s Award. The head of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that by felicitating Late Henrietta Lacks, the agency recognizes the value of reckoning with past prejudices and rising racial justice in health and medical science. He has said that it is an opportunity to recognize women from the Black community who have contributed to medical research. The award ceremony has been held at the WHO office in Geneva. It has been attended by grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and other family members of the late Henrietta Lacks. The son of Late Henrietta Lacks, Lawrence Lacks who is now 87 years old has accepted the award on her behalf.
Lawrence Lacks has said that his mother’s contributions to medical science that have been hidden from the world are now being recognized and he is quite moved by her historic recognition. The family of late Henrietta Lacks has filed a legal suit against Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc for unfair advancement from the non-consensual usage and earnings from her tissue sample and cell line earlier this month. They have alleged that the company is intentionally earning profits from the unlawful conduct of the doctors from the John Hopkins Hospital. The family members of Ms. Lacks have said that their illegally gained earnings belong to Ms. Lacks’ Estate. The lawsuit filed by the family of Ms. Lacks has stated that the firm is making, intentionally selling, and mass-producing the living tissues of Late Henrietta Lacks, despite knowing that her cells have been taken without her permission by doctors of the John Hopkins Hospital. The lawsuit filed by the family of the late Henrietta Lacks has termed the John Hopkins Hospital a racially unfair medical system. The origin of the HeLa cells has been unknown for years. However, in the 21st century, the story of Ms. Lacks has become widely known. Even a bestselling book called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has been written on her life. This book has been published in 2010. A movie as well has been made on this book starring popular television host Oprah Winfrey who has played Late Henrietta Lacks in the film.
The US House of Representatives as well has highlighted her nonconsensual contribution to cancer research. The John Hopkins Hospital organized an annual lecture series on her contribution to medical science. Now, the lawsuit states that with global recognition, there is no way that Thermo Fisher Scientific can claim that it has not been aware of the history behind products that contain HeLa cells. Petitioners have also found a page on the company’s website that mentions that the cells have been taken without the consent of the late Henrietta Lacks. The legal suit has specified at least 12 products sold by Thermo Fisher Scientific that contain the HeLa cell line. As per the official website of Thermo Fisher Scientific, the company makes revenue of around $35 billion every year.