In April of 2011, I watched a cspan show interviewing the author of a book about Henrietta Lacks,her name: Rebecca Skloot
Henrietta’s story starts in 1920, her birth and life ends sometime in the early fifties. This story has just come into the light of day and while i cried again because it’s sad, unacceptable by some it reminds us of how life is treated when you have no or less power than “average joe” who is code for being white.
After having several children and years and years of reports by “the Media“, publicity and whatnot the Lacks family seems to be the only ones who didn’t benefit from the story of this woman whose cells were used to create a cell line for medical research but got nothing in return. I don’t know when everyone else heard of this story but Oprah and some associates decided to make a movie…hopefully some of the revenue will be given to the family. It is a story that makes you gasp,gets you upset, mad, it will make you cry and wonder how the science community got away with not paying Henrietta Lacks and or her family for her contribution. If I understood the interviewer, the Lacks family has recently gotten more PR about their Mother’s story but it’s unclear if anyone paid money for all the stories and or tv programs about her. It is a story that appears to be on the surface, one of unintentional theft, but if you are willing to dig deeper you realize it is a theft and a secret kept quiet for years.
It becomes apparent her cells are used by an immoral scientist who did not tell her or her family even after it was evident that the cells were rare viable unusual and priceless…worth an astronomical amount in my opinion. The fact that they were used and what affects they all would eventually have on science today in 2011 was not evident then but those scientist probably had some idea. I understand that back then technology may not have been as advanced but it did advance and still is and if the reports are correct, the science community gave Henrietta nothing or to her family for the wonderful things those – cells she had -that changed the lives of so many. It happened in a time when minorities were treated very poorly and even if the reports state that standard procedure was this that and the other -the 70’s gave way to new ways to handle science technologies; it’s time to pay Henrietta Lacks and her family back.
First posted 4/13/11