Systemic Racism in the Sciences and Medical Industry

Henrietta Lacks

For the month of February, I will be honoring Black Leaders in Health & Medicine and highlighting their amazing contributions.

Major contributions that have been discarded and dismissed.

Henrietta Lacks was a black woman, who at 31, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951.

Her cancerous cells were then taken from her and used, without her consent, to create one of the most important tools in medicine- the historic HeLa Cell line; the first immortalized cell line and one of the most important cell lines in medical history that would revolutionize biological research, and which continues to fund the multi-billion dollar biotechnology industry today.

Henrietta nor her family was ever made aware of the use of her cells that were taken without her consent, and have never been financially compensated for their use in medical research and commercial use.

Research and commercial use that others have profited highly off of.

All of which raises concerns about privacy and patients rights.

More people are starting to become aware of her story because her cells are still alive and being used ‘til this day for groundbreaking cancer research, infectious disease and most recently, treatment to end the pandemic.

Click the links below for more information on Henrietta Lacks, her story and how this black woman’s cells advanced the scientific and medical fields years after her death.

Science Must Right a Historical Wrong

The Henrietta Lacks Foundation

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is also a great book for more detailed information about her and her story.