ADVANTAGES

The genetic revolution exploded almost immediately following her death. Molecular biologist James B. Watson (1928- ) and geneticist Francis Crick (1916-2004) created the double-helix model in the discovery of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in 1953, a year before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education which is generally credited with launching the black-led Civil Rights Movement. The eventual commodification of the He-La cells was never George Gey’s intent. While he may not have been interested in money, researchers survive in educational institutions and research laboratories by advancing knowledge, and access to the He-La facilitated public and private grant-funding for these researchers. Medical doctors are bound by the Hippocratic Oath which requires its takers to practice medicine ethically and honestly. No such oath is required of medical researchers whom the public often confuse with physicians. Successful research brought recognition from colleagues, the institutions, the medical industry, and the general society. Ironically the cancer cells cut from the cervix of an impoverished 20th century African American woman generated far greater financial rewards than the effort of Lack’s enslaved ancestors to produce a child in antebellum Virginia to enrich the family’s slave owner.

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