*Nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump of Ben Crump Law and Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss today announced that they have been retained by the family of Henrietta Lacks to pursue justice concerning the unauthorized use of her cells for medical research.
Lacks died at the age of 31 from an aggressive case of cervical cancer. Before her death 70 years ago, doctors from Johns Hopkins Hospital took samples of her cancerous cells and gave them to researchers without her or her family members’ knowledge or consent. Lacks’ cells – now commonly known as HeLa – were discovered to have an amazing property not seen before: they could be grown continuously in laboratory conditions. Lacks’ immortal cells went on to be the first human cells to be successfully cloned and have since been used continually for research into vaccines, cancer treatments, AIDS treatments, in vitro fertilization, and many other groundbreaking advances in medicine that generously line the pockets of pharmaceutical companies and executives.
MEDIA ALERT: @AttorneyCrump & Christopher Seeger to represent the family of Henrietta Lacks. Lacks’ cells were taken by pharmaceutical companies without permission and have since been used continually for research in medicine. Her family has never been afforded any equity. pic.twitter.com/hsowKZkq88
“The American pharmaceutical community has a shameful history of profiting off research at the expense of Black people without their knowledge, consent, or benefit, leading to mass profits for pharmaceutical companies from our illnesses and our very bodies,” said Crump. “There is no clearer example of this than Henrietta Lacks and the seemingly endless manipulation of her genetic material. The pharmaceutical companies have been unjustly enriched by this unethical taking of her cells, while Henrietta Lacks’ family has never been afforded any equity.”
The case of Henrietta Lacks helped to establish the ethical standard for informed patient consent in the medical community known as the Common Rule. The Common Rule requires doctors to inform patients if any aspect of their medical case will be used for research and to assign them a code number to establish anonymity.
“Henrietta’s cells have been monetized by big pharmaceutical companies for decades. While vaccines may save lives, these companies have profited from the ill-gotten genetic material of Mrs. Lacks, taken without her permission. It’s simply not right and we intend to hold them accountable,” said Seeger.
ABOUT BEN CRUMP
Through his work, nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump has spearheaded a legal movement to better protect the rights of marginalized citizens. He has led landscape-changing civil rights cases and represented clients in a wide range of areas including civil rights, personal injury, labor and employment, class actions, and more. Ben Crump Law is dedicated to holding the powerful accountable. For more information, visitbencrump.com.
ABOUT SEEGER WEISS
With offices in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, Seeger Weiss is one of the nation’s preeminent trial law firms, with an established track record of helping lead some of the most complex and important cases and securing landmark verdicts and settlements including the $14.7 billion settlement in the Volkswagen emissions case, the billion-plus NFL concussion settlement, the $4.85 billion Vioxx settlement, and the $1.5 billion settlement with Syngenta. For more information, visitseegerweiss.com.
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.
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