I was reading the latest book about HeLa cells and to be honest I was shocked. Not so much of the history of HeLa cells and the social tragedy the Lacks family had to go through. Of course I feel with them and all the terrible things they had to endure, but I believe they would have met the same challenges with or without the history of HeLa cells. Wether they would have any right to the proceeds deriving from the research performed with the help of HeLa cells seems to be a matter of debate, I personally do not believe so. However, if you want to help people that are in need and did contribute to science without their knowledge you can give to the Henrietta Lacks foundation. But even more than being sorry for the Lacks family I was shocked by what doctors did back then and what doctors possibly still do in other parts of this world, where nobody looks at their work.
HeLa cells are cells derived from the cervix carcinoma of a woman named Henrietta Lacks. The cells were removed without her knowledge from her tumor in 1951 and are growing in cell culture labs around the world since. They were the first cells that really kept growing and are now the basis of many drugs and scientific progress. I think it is out of question that she and her family should have been asked permission or at least informed of the usage of her cells. Being uneducated and entrapped in religious superstition (no offense please) they believed that their mother was actually still alive, cloned and had to suffer from all kind of treatments, AIDS and other diseases, nuclear bombs and outer space when they finally learned about the cells many years later. Through a long struggle over many years they tried to raise awareness and receive the credit her mother deserved for her "donation".
To come back to where I started from, I learned that doctors back then did, sometimes cruel, experiments on African Americans without their knowledge and often without the knowledge of the public. They seemed just to do whatever they could think of, and this was after the whole world condemned the cruel experiments Nazis did in concentration camps! One of the doctors just injected HeLa cells into patients and prisoners, partially without their knowledge, not even to think of their permission, to see if they would develop tumors. And guess what, they did develop tumors, some of them reoccurring after removal.
Who knows what is happening in hospitals and labs around the world nowadays. Once again an example of how terrible humans can be. The book presents many other examples of these kind of experiments. How could these people sleep at night?