Defending Henrietta Lacks: Justification of Ownership Rights in Separated Human Body Parts

By: Arseny Shevelev and Georgy Shevelev


PDF: Defending Henrietta Lacks


Since the time of Moore v. Regents of the University of California, it has become a well-established and widespread view that a person, when their separated body parts are misappropriated, is forced to limit themselves to fiduciary and other non-proprietary claims against those who violate the bodily inviolability of their separated parts. Now, with the filing of a lawsuit in defense of the rights in body parts of the victim of racial discrimination, Henrietta Lacks, the judicial system has an opportunity to justify itself by adopting a different perception of rights in human body parts.

This Article focuses on the fundamental similarity between separated human body parts and other property, which creates a basic possibility for them to be owned. It argues that a person has ownership of their separated body parts and provides a critical analysis of other theories of rights in the human body, which results in establishing that the concepts that do not refer to the right of ownership entail infringement of human rights and the inability to restore their interests to the fullest extent. Only a clear adherence to the idea of ownership in body parts will protect the memory of the deceased Mrs. Lacks and prevent her rights and those of her descendants from being trampled upon, while at the same time opening the way and setting a precedent for the protection of the rights of others in a similar situation.