This is the story of the first line of immortal cells — and the dangerous medical precedent that the discovery set for the rest of us.
At the age of 31 Henrietta sought treatment for what she thought was a routine illness at John Hopkins. But her test results confirmed something far more perilous. She had cervical cancer.
Doctors conducted a biopsy to determine the extent of her illness only to find that the disease had spread through her entire body. Shortly thereafter, she gave in to her illness and like most poor Blacks of her day, Henrietta was buried in an unmarked grave.
To this day the exact location of her remains are a mystery.
After her death, scientists took a second look at the the cells collected from her biopsy. Not only had those cells stayed alive outside of Henrietta’s body — they thrived. This was something that no human cells had ever achieved before.
The discovery of these “immortal” cells rocked the scientific community. Doctors from around the world subjected the cells to more than 74,000 studies, grew more than 20 tons of them, and filed 11,000 patents worth billions of dollars
All this was done in secret for 20 years. It would take another 40 years for the family to so much as be asked for their permission. But by then, the precedent was set.
The exploitation of Henrietta Lacks has opened a Pandora’s box for medical exploitation. Companies spend $23 Billion on biological samples used to develop for-profit drugs. While these samples come from a number of places, one of their prime sources are abortion clinics.
Back in 2016, Panned Parenthood was busted for profiting on the sale of the organs of fetuses they aborted. Clinics had been charging women for abortions and then make even more selling that tissue to drug companies.
Could The Same Thing Happen To You? The answer is yes — particularly if you are a Black woman.
Black women are more frequently encouraged to participate in their own exploitation than any other group.
A 2009 study complied by the American Journal of Public Health revealed that “…Black women, compared with White women, had increased odds of hysterectomy… The increased odds are possibly related to decisions to undergo hysterectomy.”
With two out of every three hysterectomies being completely unnecessary, There are only two other reasons doctors would encourage the procedure: to either give students a living subject to practice on, or for profit.
“In most major teaching hospitals in New York City, it is the unwritten policy to do elective hysterectomies on poor black and Puerto Rican women, with minimal indications, to train residents” — Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty
Like hysterectomies, abortions among black women are disproportionately high in the U.S. According to research, Black women are 5 times more likely than white women to have an abortion leading to an average of 1,876 black babies being aborted every day.
These aborted babies are then sold to research facilities and laboratories. Several years ago, when 17,000 aborted babies were found in a dumpster outside a laboratory in Los Angeles, 12–15,000 were observed to be Black. — Source
Not only is your uterus for sale, but so too is anything removed from your body by a medical professional. Scientists are given license to make billions from you — just like they did with Henrietta Lacks — without your knowledge or consent.
This article is not meant to sway anyones opinion on abortion. Instead, it is our goal to encourage women to make better decisions without the for-profit persuasion of doctors. This is an effort to inspire deeper thinking and discussion around privacy and property rights in our brave new world of biomedicine. We are not sure how many women would have opted to forego permanent medical procedures, but we do know this:
For women who are persuaded into unwanted medical procedures and who suffer a lifetime of pain and loss, there is no amount of money that could ease that pain.