Family Of Henrietta Lacks Settles Lawsuit Over Use Of Her “Immortal” Cells

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 06: General atmosphere at HBO's The HeLa Project Exhibit For "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" on April 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for HBO)
General atmosphere at HBO’s The HeLa Project Exhibit For “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” on April 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for HBO)

OAN’s Taylor Tinsley
1:23 PM – Tuesday, August 1, 2023

The family of Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose “immortal” human cells have made major advancements in medical science, have reached a settlement in their lawsuit against Thermo Fisher Scientific over the biotech companies use of the woman’s cells without her consent. 


At the age of 31, Henrietta Lacks was part of a diverse group that unknowingly donated their cells to Johns Hopkins in 1951. She initially went to the medical center for cervical cancer treatment. Lacks’ cancer was said to be very aggressive and she died later that same year. 

Her cells became the first, and for many years the only, “immortal” human cells, meaning they’re able to reproduce indefinitely.

“These cells was taken from her body like she was a lab rat and an experiment, and no one even reached out to the family to let them know,” Kim Lacks, Henrietta Lacks’ granddaughter, told WJZ.

Lacks’ human cell line, known as HeLa, has lived on to contribute to many medical breakthroughs, including the development of the polio vaccine, worldwide studies of AIDS and cancer, and much more.

An assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, James Potter, said “Henrietta is probably, if not the most important, woman in science and medicine.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, 70-years after Lacks’ death, her family reached a settlement with Thermo Fisher Scientific over the use of her immortal cells. Terms of the settlement will remain confidential. 

“The parties are pleased that they were able to find a way to resolve this matter outside of Court and will have no further comment about the settlement,” an attorney for the family, Ben Crump, told WBAL-TV.

The family first sued demanding compensation in 2021. The biotech company tried to have the lawsuit thrown out on several occasions, arguing the statute of limitations had long passed.

Crump said he couldn’t think of any better present to give Lacks on what would have been her 103rd birthday.

“We are so happy to give this present to her and her family to help define her legacy because this Black woman gave so much to the world. It’s good to give her a present back on her birthday.”

While Lacks’ family said they’ve received justice, they emphasized they’re going to make sure Henrietta’s legacy never dies.

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CORRECTION (August 1, 2023, 6:27 p.m. PT): Video package was added to article.

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