On Wednesday, Maryland U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume reintroduced a bill in Congress to posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal to Henrietta Lacks.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Steven Horsford, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, and the Lacks family joined Mfume. They all want to see her be honored for her contributions to modern science.
“Today, I announced my legislation to honor Henrietta Lacks with the Congressional Medal. Mrs. Lacks’ HeLa Cells altered the future of medical science. I encourage my colleagues to join me in further immortalizing her legacy with our highest expression of national recognition,” Mfume wrote on Twitter.
Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951, and her DNA was harvested without her consent. The tissue now known as HeLa cells has been used in scientific research and has helped develop vaccines to fight polio and COVID-19 and cancer treatments.
Ms. Lacks’ story has recently sparked debates regarding moral standards and mistrust in the medical community, particularly among Black Americans.
Despite pharmaceutical companies making large profits with Lacks’ DNA, her family has not received any financial compensation.