SU symposium tackles topic of medical racism
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Justice begins with respect for humanity. That was the topic law students, professors, and the public explored Tuesday, March 14 at the Southern University Law Center.
Their discussion centered around the treatment of one woman named Henrietta Lacks, who became a victim of what some describe as “greed masked as medical intervention.”
“The story and denial of her humanity merited an inaugural symposium,” said law center professor Deleso Alford.
“We need to try and give Henrietta Lacks the dignity, the respect, and the humanity that she didn’t get when she was butchered in the 1950s,” explained civil rights attorney Ben Crump.
In 1951, Lacks turned to Johns Hopkins for treatment of cervical cancer.
During her visit, doctors discovered she had immortal cells, meaning her cells lived when most would quickly die.
Nicknamed He-La cells, they double each day and have been used for medical research and medicine becoming a cornerstone for modern medicine.
“If you have gotten a shot or vaccine of any kind, then you have some of her in you,” said Crump.
But none of the development and or research was done with consent. And now her family is seeking justice.
“She was a mother, a wife. She was my grandmother,” explained Henrietta’s grandson, Alfred Carter Lacks.
The event brought together renowned speakers, thought leaders, and academics.
“We are honor as family that people came out in solidarity and spoke out not only for human injustice but criminal injustice,” said Lacks.
Henrietta Lacks’ family is suing Thermo Fisher Scientific, a multibillion-dollar biotech company, over its use of her living cell samples.
According to Crump, her family has never received any compensation for the use of her cells that were taken without consent more than 70 years ago.
“We are here for justice. We will not stop fighting until we get justice,” added Crump.
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