Monday, October 18, 2021

Henrietta Lacks Honored by World Health Organization

The World Health Organization honored Henrietta Lacks this month. 

Henrietta Lacks, a Black American woman and a young mother, died from cervical cancer on October 4, 1951—just eight months after her cancer diagnosis. She was 31 years old. Although her life was cut short, her legacy lives on through an “immortal” line of cells, known as HeLa cells.

During her treatment, researchers took samples of Mrs. Lacks’ tumour without her knowledge or consent. For two decades, Mrs. Lacks’ cells were commercialized and distributed across the globe unknown to her family.

Contributing to nearly 75 000 studies, Henrietta Lacks' cells have paved the way for advancements from HPV and polio vaccines to medications for HIV/AIDS and breakthroughs including  in vitro fertilization. In addition, HeLa cells are currently used in vital research for COVID-19 response efforts. * * *

In recognizing Henrietta Lacks’ enduring legacy, WHO acknowledges her story—one of inequity—and looks forward to collectively rectifying unjust disparities in global health.

 The story of Henrietta Lacks is featured in many law casebooks and her story is an important lens into the intersections of race and gender in informed consent. Readers might accordingly be interested in this recognition. 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2021/10/henrietta-lacks-honored-by-world-health-organization-.html

Healthcare, Race, Science | Permalink

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