Lacks Lawsuit Cell Profits

A lawsuit may determine who profits from medical discoveries that use a patient’s biological material. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

The book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the story of an African-American woman who was treated for cervical cancer in the 1950s.  Doctors discovered her cells, collected without her consent, had the ability to survive indefinitely in a lab, and were therefore used to develop vaccines that have garnered hundreds of millions of dollars in profits for the pharmaceutical company. Now, Ms. Lacks’ family has sued for a share of those profits. 

The case raises questions about who should profit – the pharmaceutical companies, who’ve spent millions on research and development, or the patient whose tissue, collected without proper consent, formed the basis of those developments. Ms. Lacks’ cells may be immortal but depending on how the judge rules, the case may end soon if the judge agrees with the company’s motion to dismiss the case on grounds the family waited too long to file suit.

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