Lawsuit Says Key Cancer Cells Used In Research Were Stolen 70 Years Ago
Cancer cells from Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman, have been used in cancer research for 70 years and now the family is suing a pharmaceutical company for profiting from them, alleging they were taken without consent. News outlets report on other health and race-related issues.
The Washington Post:
70 Years Ago, Henrietta Lacks’s Cells Were Taken Without Consent. Now, Her Family Wants Justice.
Descendants of Henrietta Lacks, the Black woman whose cells have been central to some of the most important scientific breakthroughs over the past 70 years, sued a pharmaceutical company Monday, alleging it profited off Lacks’s cells despite knowing that they were extracted and used for research without her consent. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Baltimore, accuses Thermo Fisher Scientific of using Lacks’s cells without approval from or payment to her family members — thus depriving them of billions of dollars and “the knowledge that a loved one’s body has been treated with respect.” (Davies, 10/4)
In other news about health and race —
New California Law Aims To Reduce Deaths Among Black Moms
Black women in California are more likely to die within a year of pregnancy than women of other races, prompting a wave of policy changes this year in the nation’s most populous state that culminated on Monday with Gov. Gavin Newsom signing a new law aimed at reducing the disparity. The law, among other things, creates a new committee within the Department of Public Health to review maternal deaths throughout the state by interviewing family members and doctors while exploring records and other reports. (Beam, 10/4)
Racism A Strong Factor In Black Women’s High Rate Of Premature Births, Study Finds
The tipping point for Dr. Paula Braveman came when a longtime patient of hers at a community clinic in San Francisco’s Mission District slipped past the front desk and knocked on her office door to say goodbye. He wouldn’t be coming to the clinic anymore, he told her, because he could no longer afford it. It was a decisive moment for Braveman, who decided she wanted not only to heal ailing patients but also to advocate for policies that would help them be healthier when they arrived at her clinic. In the nearly four decades since, Braveman has dedicated herself to studying the “social determinants of health” — how the spaces where we live, work, play and learn, and the relationships we have in those places, influence how healthy we are. (Barry-Jester, 10/5)
Half-Million Excess U.S. Deaths In 2020 Hit Minorities Worse
Racial and ethnic minorities accounted for a disproportionate number of the half million excess deaths last year, according to a new U.S. study that examines mortality both directly and indirectly related to Covid-19. Researchers compared the number of people who died from March to December 2020 with the number of deaths that had been projected to occur before the pandemic. They found 477,200 excess deaths, with more than twice as many occurring among Blacks, Latinos, American Indians and Alaskan Natives compared with Whites and Asians of similar age. About 74% of the excess deaths were attributed to Covid-19. (Dave, 10/4)