WHO Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks shortly after her move with husband David Lacks from Clover, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland in the early 1940s. The World Health Organization chief on Thursday honored the late Henrietta Lacks, a Black American woman who died of cervical cancer 70 years ago and whose cells that were taken without her knowledge spurred vast scientific breakthroughs and life-saving innovations such as for vaccines for polio and human papillomavirus, and even in research about the coronavirus. (The Lacks Family via AP)

GENEVA (AP) — The chief of the World Health Organization has honored the late Henrietta Lacks, an American woman whose cancer cells ended up providing the foundation for vast scientific breakthroughs, including research about the coronavirus. The recognition from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday came more than a decade after the publication of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Rebecca Skloot’s book chronicled the discrimination in health care Black Americans faced when Lacks developed cervical cancer, the life-saving innovations made possible by her cells and her family’s legal fight over their unauthorized use. “What happened to Henrietta was wrong,” Tedros said during a special ceremony at WHO Geneva headquarters.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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