Originally published 03/25/2013
Rebecca Skloot is the author of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”LAST week, scientists sequenced the genome of cells taken without consent from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. She was a black tobacco farmer and mother of five, and though she died in 1951, her cells, code-named HeLa, live on. They were used to help develop our most important vaccines and cancer medications, in vitro fertilization, gene mapping, cloning. Now they may finally help create laws to protect her family’s privacy — and yours.The family has been through a lot with HeLa: they didn’t learn of the cells until 20 years after Lacks’s death, when scientists began using her children in research without their knowledge. Later their medical records were released to the press and published without consent. Because I wrote a book about Henrietta Lacks and her family, my in-box exploded when news of the genome broke. People wanted to know: did scientists get the family’s permission to publish her genetic information? The answer is no.
- "I've studied the history of Confederate memorials. Here's what to do about them."
- Annette Gordon-Reed writes about why Jefferson matters more than ever after Charlottesville
- Harvard’s Maya Jasanoff vists the Congo and discovers people there probably live harder lives than they did 100 years ago when Joseph Conrad was there
- Eric Foner says in an interview that it’s not necessary to remove Confederate statues
- Philip Zelikow says the government should crack down on armed groups of militants