HeLa Teacher Sheet

HeLa Teacher Sheet


These are some potential answers to the questions raised in the second part of the HeLa student sheet.

Taking the Least of You

  • Who was Ted Slavin?
        He was a man whose blood was key in the creation of the first-ever hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Why is he worth keeping track of?
        He is worth keeping track of because he was one of the first people in history to decide that he would maintain complete control over any blood and tissues removed from his body. He would determine who used them for research, how, and who made money from them.
  • According to the RAND report, how many tissue samples were on file in 1999?
        There were approximately 307 million tissue samples on file from more than 178 million people.
  • What are these samples used for?
        They’re used in medical research.
  • Who owns these tissue samples? Do individuals own their own tissue samples?
        In general, individuals do not own their tissue samples. No one really knows for sure who “owns” the samples, though research institutes, universities, and companies tend to hold them right now.
  • Who was John Moore? What was his significance?
        John Moore was the first person to legally stake claim over his tissue and sue for profits and damages. He did not win. In 1990, the Supreme Court of California ruled against Moore on 11 counts, saying: any ownership you might have in your tissues vanishes when they are removed from your body, with or without consent.
  • According to Lori Andrews, what was the effect of the decision? Who seems to have the commercial value of the tissues?
        Anders believes that the decision didn’t prevent commercialization. It just handed over the commercial value to scientists/researchers and took it away from the tissue donors.
  • What do you think about the question of property rights over an individual’s tissues? How would this affect medical research? Would it be too expensive, too unwieldy to manage?
        Answers may vary. Encourage students to explain their answers.
  • What are the main issues involved in the Catalona case?
        This case revolves around ownership of tissue and blood samples collected by surgeon and researcher William Catalona while he worked at Washington University. Dr. Catalona claims ownership and is joined by some of his patients while Washington University claims ownership.
  • Why do you think this case has come about in the first place?
        Answers may vary but should have something to do with the idea of the “Common Rule,” that is protecting patients from becoming unwilling research participants and carefully explaining to them all the aspects of the research in which they will be involved.
This teacher sheet is a part of the The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks lesson.

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