A few years ago, my wife read Rebecca Skloot’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” and shared with me the story of this woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. Without her knowledge — or her family’s — scientists began using some of the cells removed from her body in a biopsy for research. In the six decades since, that research has yielded extraordinary results, which Henrietta’s descendants have not profited from at all.
There was a new development in her story last week when the family met with top scientists at the National Institutes of Health to come to an agreement about how those “HeLa” cells can be used, and by whom. To understand all the details of this story, I asked bioethicist Art Caplan to explain it on my America Weekend show.