THE COMMERICAL EXPLOITATION OF HENRIETTA LACKS: MK ULTRA & REVISION OF U.S. HUMAN RADIATION EXPERIMENTATION HISTORY

10 02 2010

On February 1, 2010, I was surprised and happy to see Mrs. Henrietta Lacks open up the internet on the first day of Black History Month. But, I soon became disillusioned when I realized that her life had been rewritten, marginalized and commercialized by a romancer, while the perpetrators of crimes against her (humanity) had been veiled.

According to a romanced history of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skott, she entered Johns Hopkins University clinic suffering from bleeding from a cancerous cervical tumor. A doctor sliced a tissue culture from her tumor and it just so happened to grow on its own into the infamous and extremely profitable Immortal HeLa Cell Line. For the first time in recorded medical history, human tissue cells survived the death of its host. Henrietta Lacks had been some sort of remarkable freak of nature, and Johns Hopkins University had been an auspicious benevolent bystander of medical history.[1]  Nothing could have been further from the truth.

I first discovered Henrietta Lacks in Dr. Alan Cantwell’s book, AIDS and the Doctors of Death.[2] I followed up and read about Mrs. Lacks in Michael Gold’s Conspiracy of Cells, One Woman’s Immortal Legacy and the Medical Scandal It Caused,[3] which is now out of print.   

For Mrs. Lacks and ten-thousands of innocent unwitting victims, the 1950’s was a terrible time of this nation’s most horrific and callous human medical experimentation abuses. It was the time of covert cold-war human radiation experiments conducted under a veil of secrecy by some of the leading universities of the nation including Johns Hopkins University.

Dated April 17, 1947, an Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) memorandum, stamped SECRET and addressed to the attention of a Dr. Fidler, at the AEC in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, reads in part as follows: “Subject: EXPERIMENTS ON HUMANS

“1. It is desired that no document be released which refers to experiments with humans and might have adverse effect on public opinion or result in legal suits. Documents covering such work field should be classified `secret’.” [4]

Oak Ridge Associated Universities is a consortium of U.S. universities headquartered in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, with an office in Washington, D.C. The organization was first established in 1946 as the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (ORINS) by a consortium of southern universities. Its original purpose was to advance science and technology education and research by providing its member institutions with access to the atomic energy research facilities and materials of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

In 1949, Russia exploded its first atomic weapon. In response, President Harry Truman called for atomic testing of nuclear weapons in the continental United States in addition to testing in the Pacific. Some of the first studies of the effects of radium began on beagle dogs at the University of Utah and the University of California at Davis.

In 1950, Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (ORINS) opened a hospital where it conducted clinical research for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission on the use of radiation and radioactive materials in cancer treatment. The hospital treated patients until the mid-1970s. ORINS also conducted training courses in radioisotopes and established resident training programs in nuclear medicine.

In 1951, the first U.S. atomic test occurred in Nevada; five bombs were detonated on successive days. Also, the U.S. began some of first studies investigating the health of plutonium workers at Los Alamos began.

Johns Hopkins University was an ORINS Consortium University involved in classified human radiation experimentation for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. In the 1980s, clinical research at ORINS consortium universities was the subject of investigation by the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments.

“We were taking care of them, and felt we had a right to get some return from them, since it wouldn’t be in professional fees and since our taxes were paying their hospital bills. -Dr. Paul Beeson-Yale University-1950’s Human Radiation Experimentation-

Not unlike thousands of others that were poor and powerless without the resources to pay for quality medical services, Henrietta Lacks entered into a pact with the devil with Johns Hopkins during her 5th pregnancy.

On February 1, 1951, 30-year-old Lacks was seen at a Jim Crow ORINS Consortium Johns Hopkins University clinic in Baltimore, MD for vaginal bleeding, which was not particularly unusual for benign cervical cancers. However, Mrs. Lacks’ tumor quickly developed into cervical sarcoma, a malignant tumor (Papillomavirus type 16) of the cervix. [5] 

Six weeks prior, Johns Hopkins had delivered Mrs. Lacks’ 5th child, Joseph. For whatever reasons, doctors had particularly noted at that time during a post-natal examination that there was nothing out of the ordinary in the wall of her cervix. What were they looking for? Cancer.

Between 1945 and 1947, approximately 800 pregnant women were secretly given radioactive iron “cocktails” during their treatment at the Vanderbilt University Prenatal Clinic in Nashville to study iron metabolism during pregnancy. The Rockefeller Foundation funded the covert irradiation human guinea pig program. [6]

 At the University of Tennessee Memphis during the late 1940’s, seven male infants (one white and six black) were secretly fed radioactive iodine.  The covert program was funded by the U.S. ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION to check for hypothyroidism.  [7]

At the State University of Iowa, seventeen newborn infants received intramuscular radioiodine to study thyroidal uptake. Eight newborns received oral radioiodine. This covert program was also funded by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. [8]

 During the 1950’s, UC Berkeley had secretly injected radioisotope phosphorus-32 into pregnant women, before and after delivery. UC Berkeley had also conducted experimental total body X-ray irradiation of patients to determine occupational risk for workers on the WWII Manhattan Project.[9]

Between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. exploded 67 atomic and hydrogen bombs at Bikini and Enewetok in the Marshall Islands. The Rongelap people of the islands were deliberated exposed to radiation fallout from the bombs, because the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s Advisory Committee on Biology and Medicine found it a “…opportunity for a useful genetic study of the effects on these people.” [10] In the Marshall Islands, cervical cancer mortality is 60 times greater than in the mainland United States.  

As part her therapy for cervical cancer, a Johns Hopkins surgeon, Dr, Lawrence Wharton, Jr., stitched a tube containing 4800 mg-h of radium capsules to the wall of Mrs.  Lacks’ cervix for twenty-four hours with 111500 Roentgen X-Ray therapies. The radium and x-ray therapies were presumed to slow down mitosis (splitting) of the cancerous cells. The radium was provided by the U.S. ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION USA, OAK RIDGE, TENNESSEE. [11]

Radium is an alkaline earth metal that is found in trace amounts in uranium ores. It is extremely radioactive. Its most stable isotope, Ra, has a half-life of 1602 years and decays into radon gas. [12]

As the surgeon removed the radium capsules at that point he took a biopsy of Mrs. Lacks’ cancerous tumor and normal tissue. [13] On February 9, 1951, Dr. Wharton then sent the radium and Roentgen X-Ray laced tissues and the normal tissues for study to Johns Hopkins Tissue Culture Laboratory ran by German descendent Dr. George Otto Gey and his wife Margaret. For whatever reasons, the radium and x-ray therapies had the opposite effect it exploded mitosis of the cancerous cells at an atomic/nuclear rate which within months consumed Mrs. Lacks’ entire body and organs. The Gey’s said sarcastically that Mrs. Lacks’ tissue cells grew like “crabgrass.”

Contrary to Ms. Skott’s subtle attempt to rewrite Mrs. Lacks’ medical history and steer us clear of Mrs.  Lacks’ radium tissue infectivity, Dr. Gey’s HeLa cell culture was the U.S. ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION USA, OAK RIDGE, TENNESSEE radium tainted super charged tissue, and it continued to literally microscopically atomically explode in mitosis in the air in infinity.  

On October 4, 1951, Mrs. Lacks’ life expired after great sadness and suffering. She passed away poor in a racially segregated ward of Johns Hopkins University Hospital. An autopsy was taken of Mrs. Lacks in the basement of the hospital. Dr. Ella Oppenheimer of Johns Hopkins preformed the autopsy instead of a local coroner. Dr. Oppenheimer was a prominent member of Baltimore’s aristocratic society. Dr. Oppenheimer was the chief of the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, Washington, D. C., Department of Public Health.

In 1948, Oppenheimer’s Child Bureau funded radium irradiation experiments on poor helpless hearing impaired children at a clinic in Hagerstown, MD by her Johns Hopkins colleague, Dr. Samuel J. Crowe. [14]

When Dr. Gey found that Mrs. Lacks had passed and the university planned an autopsy, he anxiously made his attendance at the autopsy to seize more of Mrs. Lacks’ tissues.

Dr. Gey had discovered that Mrs.  Lacks’ tumor cells were the first human cells to live after the death of its host. It may have been one of the most monumental breakthroughs in modern medical science. It was the world’s first and only human cell line. It meant million for Johns Hopkins University and international fame, glory and riches for Dr. Gey; and the continued racist exploitation, poverty, and mourning for Mrs. Lacks’ young powerless and unknowing family. 

According to Ms. Skott’s account, at the death of Mrs. Lacks on October 4, Dr. George Gey went on national television in a press conference to announce his revolutionary breakthrough discovery in cancer research. “He held up a vial of Lacks’ cells, calling them, for the first time, HeLa cells.” [15]

Dr. Gey said that the HeLa cell line was named after Harriet Lane. [16] Most assume that Dr. Gey deliberately misnamed the cell tissue donor to preserve Mrs.  Lacks’ anonymity. However, the motive behind Gey’s lie was far more self-serving, cynical and condescending.  It was a sick inside joke. It was coded.

Mrs. Harriet Lane Johnston was a widow of a Baltimore banker Henry Johnston. She left a sum of over $400,000 at her death in 1903 to establish the Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children at Johns Hopkins as a memorial to two sons who had died in childhood. She was the niece of President James Buchanan and served as First Lady of the White House during her uncle’s term of office. [17]

At the time of the Dr. Gey’s press conference, the Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children was a covert CIA-MK ULTRA human guinea pig ranch. Children were regularly taken from a Pediatric Clinical Research Unit at Harriet Lane to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. for CIA-MK ULTRA drug and mind control experiments.[18]  Since the late 1940’s, Johns Hopkins had been a major covert CIA human guinea pig institution. [19]

Also during the time of Dr. Gey’s press conference, there were even more sinister covert human medical experimentations taking place at Johns Hopkins. From 1948-1954, Johns Hopkins University Hospital ran a covert Nasal Radium Irradiation human medical experiment on 291 elementary students from Baltimore City public schools. Each child was irradiated with radium for 12 minutes in each nostril, 50 milligrams per dose, on at least three separate occasions. The experiment was known as research project B-19. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health, then a division of the U.S. Public Health Service. Most of the poor children subjected to the radium experiment later suffered greatly from malignant cancerous tumors of the brain, neck, mouth and throat. Some of them, all of their teeth fell out. It was another hideous inhumane U.S. ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION project of Dr. Samuel J. Crowe. [20]

After I discovered Mrs. Lacks’ unique story in Dr. Cantwell’s book and Michael Gold’s Conspiracy of Cells in late 1993 or early 1994, I wrote to two well-known female authors and activists on the East Coast. In the letter, I explained how this unknown and uncelebrated poor Black woman’s cell tissue had revolutionized medical science. I asked them to inquire to find out if her family had been compensated. The royalties to the HeLa Cell Lines should have been worth millions. I also mailed them a copy of Dr. Cantwell’s book, “AIDS and the Doctors of Death.”

Either one of them respectfully responded. One evening, I was walking past De Lauer’s Newsstand in Downtown Oakland when instinct told me to look in the store’s window. I looked. There she was on the front cover, “Henrietta Lacks: An Unsung Hero”, Emerge Magazine, October 1994. One of the sisters had sold or gave the story to Harriet A. Washington, a house Negro Harvard journalist to control and spin for mass public consumption.

Ms. Washington is a medical ethicist and writer whose work focuses upon the intersection of biotechnology, ethics and the history of medicine. She has been housed at Harvard, DePaul; and Stanford University,[21]  the handmaiden of the military-industrial-medical-congressional complex. The Harriet Lacks’ story opened a marketable career for her. She went on to author a best selling book, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation with African Americans from the Colonial Era to the Present.  

The book earned Ms. Washington many awards including a 2007 PEN Award, the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, and she was rewarded for her work with a Science Desk Award funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Her reward from Alfred P. Sloan screams, it is a major eugenics and CIA/MK ULTRA institution, “The Sloan Foundation (1) supported black educational initiatives consistent with COINTELPRO Black Nationalist Hate Campaign, (2) administered mass-media-public-persuasion experiments completely consistent with the CIA’s Project MK ULTRA-efforts to develop brainwashing technologies and drugs to affect large populations, (3) funded much of the earliest cancer research involving the genetic engineering of mutant viruses, (4) began major funding of the National Academy of Sciences, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (for “neuroscience” and molecular genetics research), the Salk Institute (for viral research), and the Scientists’ Institute for Public Information between 1968 and 1970, (5) funded population control studies by Planned Parenthood-World Population, New York, N.Y…” [22]

A friend and cousin of Ben Chavis, President of the NAACP, on the East Coast at that time told me that as result of the Emerge story the Lacks family had been compensated by special legislation of the State of Maryland. I had no way to determine if the story was true or not, it may have been deliberate misinformation. Was the Lacks Family compensated by Johns Hopkins for the seizure of her tissues without her informed consent?  I don’t believe that they were. Was Mrs. Lacks a human radiation guinea pig? I believe so.

Mrs. Lacks was no freak of nature. She was a normal human being just like my own mother. She trusted her nation and it betrayed her; family and legacy. They intentionally turned her body into a cold-war radium test tube for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission like something out of Nazi Germany.

Henrietta’s son, Joseph, born six weeks before her diagnosis of cervical cancer had spinal bifida, a split in the backbone that causes paralysis. Spinal bifida, which is not usually considered a genetic disease. According to Zakaryiyya Rahman (Joseph) Lacks, he spent the first year of his life in a Johns Hopkins ward suffering from the birth defect. Spinal bifida is a side effect of Agent Orange;[23] and radiation contamination.[24]  They killed her and continue to profit from their wrongdoing and crimes against humanity.

There was also a sinister side of HeLa. For the first time in medical history, military-industrial complex scientist had human cell lines that they could use as some sort of mixer to create new forms of mutant diseases like AIDS that the world has never seen before by coaxing animal and bird viruses into human cells for covert military genetic and biological warfare projects.

I have subsequently concluded that one of the sisters I first informed about Mrs.  Lacks was working for the military-industrial complex. She was a senior psychiatrist at St. Elizabeth’s Mental Hospital in Washington DC. She was there all along with Dr. Winfred Overholser, the superintendent of St. Elizabeth.

As early as 1942, General William Donovan, chief of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA, had created a covert psychological research program under the direction of Dr. Winfred Overholser at St. Elizabeth. Dr. Oversholser was at the heart of all of the Nazi inspired CIA projects using unsuspecting civilian guinea pigs — BLUEBIRD, ARTICHOKE, MKULTRA, MIDNIGHT CLIMAX and others. [25]

St. Elizabeth’s Mental Hospital had been a covert MK ULTRA institution for decades. She had been at St. Elizabeth for decades and never mentioned Nazis, Oversholser, the CIA, mind control or MK ULTRA in any of her books or lectures. In fact, she retained the German surname of her long lost divorced German husband, and I had failed to suspect her of anything but having undying love of her people. For decades, I failed to see it because I had so much love and respect for the sister. I was blind. All along, she must have been one of them, Dr. Frances Chess-Welsing.

On January 15, 1994, President William Clinton established the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments to investigate questions of the record of the United States government with respect to human radiation experiments. The whitewash special committee was chaired by you know who, Ruth R. Faden, M.P.H., PhD of  Johns Hopkins.[26]  Johns Hopkins hideous B-19 Project-Radium Irradiation human medical experiment on 291 elementary students was tagged therapeutic treatment and buried on the back pages of its final report. [27]

The Nuremberg Code is a set of research ethics principles for human experimentation instituted as a result of the Nuremberg Nazi War Crimes Trials at the end of the Second World War. The Nuremberg Code includes such principles as informed consent and absence of coercion; properly formulated scientific experimentation; and beneficence towards experiment participants. [28]

The physicians, universities and hospitals that participated in secret MEDICAL EXPERIMENTS ON HUMANS for the CIA and U.S. Atomic Energy Commission deliberately and knowingly retreated from the clear principles enunciated in the Nuremberg Code; the Declaration of Helsinki; the Declaration of Human Rights; and the Hippocratic Oath. As of this date, not one of them, individual or institution, has been prosecuted or charged with crimes against humanity. Not one of them has apologized for the thousandths of unwitting victims that they had deliberately disfigured, maimed, destroyed and murdered. In order to insure that unethical human experimentation does not happen again, all violations of the Code must be publicized, the violators punished, and the universality of the Nuremberg Code be upheld.

The romancers want to create an illusion that Mrs. Lacks is stereotypically dancing in the sky knowing that her tissue cells helped mankind. God’s children want her family compensated, and those that violated and tortured her held responsible for crimes against humanity.

For Black History Month, keep your eyes on the prize- Truth and Justice for Mrs. Henrietta Lacks, her Family and thousandths of unwitting American civilians deliberatively turned into radioactive human lab rats by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and MK  ULTRA.

 


[1] Sklott, Rebecca, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Crown, 2010

[2] Cantwell, Alan, Jr., Aids and the Doctors of Death, An Inquiry into the Origin of the Aids Epidemic, Aries Rising Press, Los Angeles (1988)

[3] Gold, Michael, Conspiracy of Cells, One Woman’s Immortal Legacy and the Medical Scandal It Caused, State University of New York, Albany (1986)

[4] http://www.projectcensored.org/static/1995/1995-story6.htm

[5] Id., at pg. 14

[6] http://www.lieffcabraser.com/press_releases/19980727-vanderbilt.htm

[7] http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/radiation/dir/mstreet/commeet/meet4/brief4.gfr/tab_p/br4p1a.txt

[8] Id.

[9] http://www.monitor.net/monitor/9-2-95/radiation.html

[10] http://www.apfn.org/apfn/experiment.htm

[11] http://www.farber.info/reap/city-paper.html

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radium

[13] Id.

[14] http://www.jstor.org/pss/3458311

[15] http://www.enotalone.com/article/5084.html

[16] http://www.archivesofpathology.org/doi/full/10.1043/1543-2165-133.9.1463

[17] http://www.medicalarchives.jhmi.edu/harrietlane.html

[18] http://www.the7thfire.com/Politics%20and%20History/CIA_MK-ULTRA_experiments_on_children.htm

[19] http://www.freedommag.org/english/vol36I2/page16.htm

[20] http://www.farber.info/reap/city-paper.html

[21] http://www.pen.org/author.php/prmAID/696

[22] Horowitz, Leonard G., Emerging Viruses: AIDS & Ebola, Tetrahedron Publishing Group, Sandpoint, IA (1996), pg. 476

[23] http://www.nytimes.com/1996/03/15/us/agent-orange-may-be-tied-to-birth-flaw.html?pagewanted=1

[24] http://nucnews.net/nucnews/2001nn/0105nn/010520nn.htm

[25] http://myweb.cableone.net/mtilton/bowart.htm

[26] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advisory_Committee_on_Human_Radiation_Experiments

[27] Id. At Footnote 20

[28] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_Code


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7 responses

19 02 2010
alan cantwell MD

I enjoyed your take on Henrietta Lacks. Thanks for mentioning that you first found her in my 1988 book, AIDS & the Doctors of Death.

I recently again wrote about Ms. Lacks in an article just published in rense.com http://www.rense.com/general89/immot.htm
and titled: Immortal HeLa Cells And The Continuing Contamination Of
Cancer And Vaccine Research– By Alan Cantwell MD
You are welcome to post it on your site, if your wish.
Keep up your important research -by spreading the word!!
Best regards, Alan

5 04 2010
princeray

Dr. Cantwelll, I am so honored. I have learned so much from your courageous research and truths. You planted the seed with “AIDS and the DOCTORs of Death.” Your comment means so very much to me. You’re one of my true heroes. I am so humbled. Thanks, Princeray

6 04 2010
alan cantwell MD

Hi Princeray:

Thanks for your kind email to me…..and posting….we seem to be among the very few to have some “negative” comments about HeLa, particularly concerning the way the cells were grown in the first place, and the potential havoc the cells made in vaccine and cancer research, most of which has conveniently swept under the carpet. I don’t think Henrietta would be pleased!!

Regards,
Alan Cantwell MD

9 07 2010
J

It is no coincidence that the biomed boom is happening in Maryland.

11 07 2010
princeray

JohnsHopkins University?

29 06 2012
Mikala

Thank you so much for writing this. I was given an assignment by my AP Biology teacher to find out who Henrietta Lacks was. The amazing dancer… The wife and mother of five… When I started reading some of what I had to my mom, she hinted that maybe I should look up information about the radium tubes that were placed into her cervix… That’s when the bomb fell… Part of the assignment is to write my opinion about what they did to her, and I plan on being completely honest. I was wondering if you knew any ways a Junior in high school could work to get the Lacks’ family some of the compensation they deserve… Thank you for your time.

8 07 2012
princeray

Dear Mikala,

I was concerned about the same thing. HeLa Cells made billions for the industrial-medical industry. I first learned of Henrietta Lacks from Dr. Alan Cantwell (AIDS and the Doctors of Death). I contacted some alleged good and concerned professional sisters on the East Coast. I asked them to check with her family to find out if they knew anything about what happened to Mrs. Lacks, and whether they had been compensated. To my surprise, one or both of the sisters turned the information over to the government to counteract anything that we could plan. I heard that they were subsequently compensated, but I can’t be sure. I am out of the black elite intellectual loop. There is a lot on good stuff on Mrs. Lacks- now. Before, she was just a footnote. Things cannot never be the same, the new revelations surrounding the medical human radium experimentations must be part of her story from this day on.

Sincerely, Princeray

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