March 5 Forum At SUNY Downstate On Ethical Issues In Human Subjects Research Features Grandson Of Henrietta Lacks

By Office of Communications & Marketing | Mar 4, 2020

MEDIA CONTACT: John Gillespie | | (718)270-2262

The use of her cells without her consent led to dozens of profitable medical breakthroughs, but no benefits for her family and decedents

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (March 4, 2020) – When 31-year-old Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951, scientists used the cells from her tumor as the foundation for medical advancesin cancer, AIDS, antiviral HIV drugs, and dozens of otherbreakthroughs. Of the millions, perhaps billions of dollars in profits generated for hundreds of companies, Henrietta Lacks’ family never saw a dime. Why?

Because Henrietta’s family never gave their consent, and were never informed, that Henrietta’s cells, known now and forever as “HeLa” cells, were being used in this way.

Sponsored by the John Conley Division of Medical Ethics & Humanities, and the SUNY Downstate Department of Medicine’s Division of Gastroenterology, Henrietta Lacksgrandson, Alfred Lacks Carter, Jr., will lead an open forum discussing how his grandmother’s story puts a laser focus on issues such as informed consent and bioethics, especially as theyrelate to the exploitation of marginalized groups and people of color.

Ethical Issues in Human Subjects Research
An Open Forum with Alfred Lacks Carter Jr.
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Alumni Auditorium
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Alfred Lacks Carter, Jr., is a former Marine and President and CEO of Henrietta Lacks House of Healing, which offers transitional housing for disabled men and women suffering from substance abuse. He is highly active in his community, helping men transition back to their lives and families following incarceration. He was among the family members who consulted on the HBO film adaptation of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball. He was also featured in the movie.


About SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University is the borough’s only academic medical center for health education, research, and patient care, and is a 342-bed facility serving the healthcare needs of New York City, and Brooklyn’s 2.6 million residents. University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB) is Downstate’s teaching hospital, backed by the expertise of an outstanding medical school and the research facilities of a world-class academic center. More than 800 physicians, representing 53 specialties and subspecialties—many of them ranked as tops in their fields—comprise Downstate's staff.

A regional center for cardiac care, neonatal and high-risk infant services, pediatric dialysis, and transplantation, Downstate also houses a major learning center for children with physical ailments or neurological disorders. In addition to UHB, Downstate comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative, including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter at @sunydownstate.