Henrietta Lacks
The Mother of Modern Medicine by Kadir Nelson, oil on linen, 2017.

After Decades of Fighting, Henrietta Lacks Family Finally Gets Some Justice

The family of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman whose cells were used for groundbreaking medical research without her consent, has reached a settlement with Thermo Fisher Scientific, a company that used her cells without her consent. The settlement was announced on August 1, 2023.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, but the family’s lawyers say that it includes a financial payment and a commitment from Thermo Fisher to engage in outreach and education about the Lacks family’s story.

The settlement is a significant victory for the Lacks family, who have been fighting for decades to ensure that their mother’s legacy is honored and that her cells are used ethically. The settlement also sends a message to other companies that use human cells without consent that they will be held accountable.

“This settlement is a long-awaited victory for the Lacks family,” said Ben Crump, one of the family’s lawyers. “It is a recognition of the harm that was done to Henrietta Lacks and her family, and it is a step towards ensuring that her cells are used ethically in the future.”

The settlement also includes a commitment from Thermo Fisher to create a fund to support research into cervical cancer, the disease that killed Henrietta Lacks.

“We are pleased to have reached a settlement with the Lacks family,” said Peter R. Jones, president of Thermo Fisher Scientific. “We believe that this settlement is in the best interests of all parties involved, and we are committed to working with the Lacks family to honor Henrietta Lacks’ legacy.”

The settlement is a significant step forward in the fight for justice for Henrietta Lacks and her family. It is a reminder that the exploitation of human cells without consent is unacceptable and that those who engage in this practice will be held accountable.

The settlement also sends a message to the scientific community that the use of human cells must be done ethically and with the consent of the donors.


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