Who owns your cells? When they are in your body, it’s not much of a question. Does the answer change if they have been taken for testing?
Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old mother of five when she died in 1951 of a particularly fast-moving form of cervical cancer. Doctors treating her at Johns Hopkins Hospital took samples of her cancer cells for study. Ms. Lack’s cell line was the first human cell line to grow in a lab environment and went on to help develop the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, in vitro fertilization, and much more. Does the magnitude of these scientific achievements outweigh the fact that doctors did not obtain consent from Ms. Lacks?
To prepare for this Discussion, review the Grady article in this week’s Learning Resources, -Second Opinion: A Lasting Gift to Medicine That Wasn’t Really a Gift” on the case of Henrietta Lacks and the famous “HeLa” cell line.
Post a comprehensive response to the following:
- In your opinion, who owns the results of research (the cells, the cell lines)? Support your rationale using ethical principles.
- Should Henrietta Lacks’ descendents receive remuneration for the products resulting from the research conducted with HeLa cells? Support your rationale with legal principles.
- If Ms. Lacks had given informed consent, would your opinion change?