The Lacks Family deserves what is rightfully theirs
I consider it to be both necessary and appropriate to convey to you my frustration as well as acute chagrin in learning that among the multitude of pharmaceutical companies only two have finally attempted to provide economic acknowledgement of the immeasurable contributions made by Henrietta Lacks towards the furtherance of humankind.
While it is at first glance gratifying that the research community has at long last paid homage to the immense debt it owes to HeLa cells, I am nonetheless outraged by the meager nature of the “reparations” that have been extended.
Furthermore, that these funds, superficial as they are, were directed to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation rather to its counterpart, the Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group, is highly suspect inasmuch as the former was created and is greatly influenced by Rebecca Skloot, a white female, and the latter is mainly comprised of people of color, many of whom are the direct descendants of the organization’s name sake.
This observation is in no manner intended to cast aspersion upon Ms. Skloot as she warrants high praise for bringing worldwide attention to the life of Henrietta Lacks and to the discovery as well as unique importance of HeLa cells.
However, Ms. Skloot has vastly benefited from her accomplishments and is currently receiving substantial financial reward and personal renown for the excellence of her book and other undertakings related to the Henrietta Lacks saga.
This situation is enormously incongruent, if not unconscionable, when one realizes that the Lacks family has yet to reap a fraction of the mammoth profit generated from the commercial use of the HeLa cell.
Of equal concern is the timing of the announcement of the “reparations.” As you are well aware, the universe is anxiously awaiting the creation of a vaccine that will mitigate if not extinguish the catastrophic effects of the COVID-19 virus.
It is not unreasonable to believe that HeLa cells are playing a vital role in the development of this highly sought-after medical intervention just as it did in the cure of Polio.
With this reality in mind, the financial wealth that will be produced for the entity holding the patent to the substance leading to the curtailment of the current pandemic will be beyond comprehension.
Might, just might the token attempts at reparation that we have witnessed be in actuality a feeble effort to deflect attention from the overwhelming windfalls that are about to unfold for certain pharmaceutical companies while shielding these enterprises from public disrepute for not having properly recognized the instrumental contributions of Henrietta Lacks in this achievement.
Moreover, fear that doing so through the inclusion of a reasonable monetary award to her family might imminently unlock the door, legally barring, their quest to obtain just compensation for the profits gleaned from the commercial use of the HeLa cell throughout the years.
Combined, these circumstances could be in truth the underlying factors dictating the size, scope, and recipients of the announced recompense.
Two well-established aphorisms may well be apropos, to wit, “all that glitters is not gold” and “beware Greeks bearing gifts.” Both speak of deception as well as the need for caution and close examination of bestowments which initially appear to be of value.