Johns Hopkins University announced plans to name a new research building after Henrietta Lacks nearly 70 years after they stole her cells for research.
Lacks was an African-American woman who received cancer treatment at the university back in 1951.
Unbeknownst to her, doctors collected some of her cells and have since used them to create self-replicating HeLa cells, a discovery which has lead to groundbreaking treatments for illnesses such as Polio.
There has long been disagreement surrounding the ethics of the decision to collect Lacks’ cells without her knowledge and whether or not her family should be compensated for the progress that was made possible because of the theft.
The whole incident also raises serious questions about a patient’s right to privacy and their bodily autonomy.
While the decision to name the building after Lacks is certainly a step in the right direction, it seems a somewhat hollow gesture considering the billions and billions of dollars that were made off of her genetic material.
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