Open Thread | Finally, The Lacks Family Gets Compensation

This country has a long legacy of stealing from Black people and not giving them their due compensation.

The story of Henrietta Lacks is just one of those stories.

Saw this news:

Lacks family celebrates HeLa settlement
Biotech company profited selling products derived from Baltimore County resident’s cells
By Angela Roberts and Dan Belson

The family of Henrietta Lacks agreed Monday to settle its lawsuit against Thermo Fisher Scientific, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company that sold products derived from the Baltimore County resident’s cells, according to civil rights attorney Ben Crump.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, Crump said in a statement shortly before midnight Monday.

“The parties are pleased that they were able to find a way to resolve this matter outside of Court and will have no further comment about the settlement,” said Crump, who was hired in 2021 by Lacks’ family to explore litigation against biotech companies that profit from HeLa cells — an immortal cell line derived from a sample taken from the Turner Station resident over 70 years ago at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Thermo Fisher sent an identical statement Tuesday morning to The Baltimore Sun.The case was sent to Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson last week and was scheduled for a settlement conference Monday morning. The hearing was closed to the public and ran until late in the evening.
Lacks’ grandchildren and other descendants gathered Tuesday morning at Canton Waterfront Park with Crump and other members of the legal team to celebrate the settlement and mark what would have been Lacks’ 103rd birthday.

The fight isn’t over against those who profit from the HeLa cell line, the attorneys said.
“Those who choose to sell, mass produce, without their permission or consent, without compensation to the family — well, we’ll see them in court,” said Chris Ayers, Crump’s co-counsel and a partner at the New Jersey-based law firm Seeger Weiss.

But Lacks’ family and their legal team — led by Crump — said the multibillion-dollar company continues to unjustly profit from the cells every time it cultivates, sells and is paid for newly replicated cells in the line. Thermo Fisher, the family alleged in their complaint, is treating Lacks’ cells as “chattel to be bought and sold.”
Lacks, a Black tobacco farmer and mother of five who lived in Turner Station, died shortly after her diagnosis, at 31 years old. But her cells — which Johns Hopkins doctors took from her without her knowledge or consent — lived on, becoming the first to survive outside a body in a laboratory. The cells, known as HeLa cells, are still replicating in laboratories today, some seven decades after Lacks’ death.

HeLa cells, the first “immortal” cell line, have been used in countless biomedical breakthroughs. They helped doctors eradicate polio and map the human genome, as well as develop HPV vaccines, in vitro fertilization and — more recently — COVID-19 vaccines.

The cell line also was the first to be commercialized, becoming the building blocks for a multibillion-dollar industry based on buying and selling tissues and cells and patenting genes. Lacks’ legacy went without much public recognition for decades until journalist Rebecca Skloot chronicled the story of her cells in the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” which Oprah made into a 2017 movie.


“We are proceeding forward on a well established legal principle of unjust enrichment,” Crump said. “The plan moving forward is to make these pharmaceutical companies do the right thing. I mean, it’s not a very difficult ask, when you think of the massive amounts of wealth that they have accumulated from using and studying and researching vaccines and medicines based on this Black woman’s genetic materials.”

Who is Henrietta Lacks, you might ask?

Almost every breakthrough in science since 1951 has used Ms. Lacks’ cells. Wrap your mind around that. And, that they were taken WITHOUT HER PERMISSION.

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4 Responses to Open Thread | Finally, The Lacks Family Gets Compensation

  1. rikyrah says:

    Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) tweeted at 9:17 PM on Fri, Aug 04, 2023:
    I very much appreciate the rapid response prosecution team. It is unacceptable for Trump to try to influence the trial this way. I would not be surprised if Judge calls a hearing in short order

    These Trump statements also underscore why a trial should happen soon to minimize…

  2. rikyrah says:

    Kenny BooYah! 🖖🏾 (@KwikWarren) tweeted at 6:40 AM on Fri, Aug 04, 2023:
    Republicans are drowning immigrants, talking about slitting people’s throats, saying slavery was good for black ppl, threatening to arrest pregnant women for crossing state lines, waging war on LGBTQ community&inciting an insurrection…yet, they remain politically viable?! How?!

  3. rikyrah says:

    Polling USA (@USA_Polling) tweeted at 8:41 PM on Thu, Aug 03, 2023:
    Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, TN lawmakers who were booted from the House earlier this year, win their seats in special elections

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  4. rikyrah says:

    Good Morning, Everyone😊😊😊

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