Henrietta Lacks: The mother of modern medicine
In recent years, much attention has been given to the subject of patient rights; be this in the form of patient-centricity efforts, which place the individual at the heart of research and treatment efforts, or through the growing accessibility of healthcare information online.
Perhaps the most famous case of patient rights can be found in the cautionary tale of one seemingly ordinary woman, and her family’s decades long fight for justice.
No one, bar her doctors and lead researchers, were privy to the origins of her cells, not her name, age, nor any details about her life. While her ‘immortal’ cells would enable researchers around the world to conduct experiments that could not be tested on living humans – driving decades worth of innovation – it would be two decades before the mystery of Henrietta Lack’s identity would be revealed. And even more years before her surviving family would get answers.
The story begins – as so many do – with a patient walking into a hospital, looking for help.
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