Art Caplan on the NIH’s Agreement Regarding Control of Henrietta Lacks’ Cells

Art Caplan has a new opinion piece up at on the longstanding controversy over the use of the cells of Henrietta Lacks, a poor African American woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951, for research that has generated billions of dollars through scientific research over more than six decades. This research was conducted without Lacks’ or her family’s consent. According to a new NIH agreement with the Lacks family:

Lack’s genome data will be accessible only to those who apply for and are granted permission. And two representatives of the Lacks family will serve on the NIH group responsible for reviewing biomedical researchers’ applications for controlled access to HeLa cells. Additionally, any researcher who uses that data will be asked to include an acknowledgement to the Lacks family in their publications.

The new understanding between the NIH and the Lacks family does not include any financial compensation for the family. The Lacks family hasn’t, and won’t, see a dime of the profits that came from the findings generated by HeLa cells. But this is a moral and ethical victory for a family long excluded from any acknowledgment and involvement in genetic research their matriarch made possible.

Read the full article here.

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