Henrietta Lacks’ Family Files Another Lawsuit

(Annapolis, MD) — The family of Henrietta Lacks is suing a second biopharmaceutical company over its use of infamous “HeLa” cells. The cells were illegally taken from Lacks’ body without her consent during a medical procedure in 1951. Her cell line was the first to reproduce indefinitely, and it has since been used in medical research across the globe. On Thursday, Lacks’ family sued Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical for unlawfully generating huge profits using HeLa cells. The lawsuit says the suffering of Black people “has fueled innumerable medical progress and profit, without just compensation or recognition,” and Lacks’ family wants to block the company from continuing to use the cells without permission. Last week, the family announced a settlement with another company, Thermo Fisher Scientific, over profits from Lacks’ cancer cells.

Attorney Ben Crump, second from left, walks with Ron Lacks, left, Alfred Lacks Carter, third from left, both grandsons of Henrietta Lacks, and other descendants of Lacks, whose cells have been used in medical research without her permission, outside the federal courthouse in Baltimore, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021.