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Lacks Family Hires Attorney

The family of Henrietta Lacks has hired a civil rights attorney who is considering seeking compensation from pharmaceutical companies that have used her cancer cells, the Baltimore Sun reports.

A Johns Hopkins Hospital doctor collected a sample of cancer cells from Lacks about 70 years ago without her knowledge or permission, the Sun adds, noting that the resulting HeLa cells have become widely used in biomedical research.

It reports that members of the Lacks family have now hired civil right attorney Ben Crump, who says the use of the cells without her knowledge or consent is an example of how Black people in the US have been exploited medically. "Her family is here today to start the journey to right that wrong," Crump said during a news briefing, according to CBS Baltimore.

Crump and trial lawyer Christopher Seeger add that they are investigating about 100 pharmaceutical companies that may have used HeLa cells in product development and have not ruled out bringing a case against Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Sun says.

"This is the greatest example of corporate theft I've seen in my career, and I've been pursuing pharmaceutical companies for 25 years," Seeger said, according to the Sun. "They took something from this family and have offered them nothing, yet they've gone out and made millions of dollars."