Pro Bono and Pop Culture

What are you doing on Saturday night? Check out the premiere of HBO’s adaption of the best-selling novel, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The film, starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne, tells the story of an impoverished black woman whose cancer cells were used to aid in lucrative medical discoveries after she died in 1950.  Meanwhile Lacks’ surviving relatives were left poor and unable to afford health insurance.

Lowenstein Sandler*† provided pro bono legal assistance both to set up the Henrietta Lacks Foundation and secure it tax-exempt status.

The Foundation aims to provide financial assistance to eligible individuals who have contributed to scientific research without personally benefiting, particularly in the absence of informed consent, and their families.   To date, more than 50 grants have been awarded to Lacks’ immediate family members for health expenses and education.  Other recipients are the family members of survivors of the Tuskegee Institute study from the 1930s-1970s, which left black men untreated for syphilis without their knowledge or consent, and Guatemalan men infected with syphilis in a U.S. government experiment in the 1940s.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® Member