Victoria Baptiste and Alfred Carter, Jr., members of Henrietta Lacks’ family, will present a lecture on Thursday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m., in the Chapel. The lecture is free and open to the public. Henrietta Lacks is the subject of Rebecca Skloot’s best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951, at age 31. Cells taken from her body without her knowledge were used to form the HeLa cell line, which has been used extensively in medical research since that time. Lacks’ case has sparked legal and ethical debates over the rights of an individual to his or her genetic material and tissue.
The international success of Skloot’s New York Times bestseller has left people keenly interested in the Lacks family and Henrietta’s legacy. In their appearances, the family shares with audiences what it meant to find out—decades after the fact—that Henrietta’s cells were being used in laboratories around the world, bought and sold by the billions.
With their visits, Lacks family members put a personal face on such issues as the dark history of medical experimentation on African-Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over informed consent. Their talks raise complicated questions about whether we control the stuff we’re made of, and whether we should share in the profits.
The lecture is sponsored by the Days-Massolo Center.