ACS CAN Supports Congressional Gold Medal Bill Honoring Henrietta Lacks

The Henrietta Lacks Congressional Gold Medal Act would posthumously recognize significant contributions to numerous medical breakthroughs

August 4, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 4, 2023 – U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and U.S. Representative Kweisi Mfume (D-Md. 7th) recently announced the introduction of the Henrietta Lacks Congressional Gold Medal Act, legislation that would posthumously award Henrietta Lacks the Congressional Gold Medal for her substantial contributions to medicine.

Lacks, a Maryland resident, died from cervical cancer in 1951. During her cancer treatment, Lacks’ cells were taken without her knowledge or consent and have been used to develop some of modern medicine’s most important breakthroughs, including the development of the polio vaccine and treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson’s disease.

The following is a statement from Lisa A. Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), in support of the legislation.

“We applaud Senators Van Hollen and Cardin and Representative Mfume for reintroducing the Henrietta Lacks Congressional Gold Medal Act in recognition of the significant role Henrietta Lacks has played in medicine, including reducing the cancer burden. We stand with them and the Lacks family in support of this legislation.

“Henrietta Lacks’ cells have saved countless lives and improved health outcomes for countless more. Her lasting contributions to medicine should never be forgotten. We urge Congress to rightfully honor her legacy by passing this legislation without delay.”

ACS CAN has been a longtime advocate of public policy solutions that ensure everyone has a fair and just opportunity to prevent, detect, treat and survive cancer. The organization advocated for the passage of the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act, which was also supported by Senators Van Hollen and Cardin and Representative Mfume and is aimed at increasing access and removing barriers to participation in federally sponsored cancer clinical trials for communities of color and other groups that are traditionally underrepresented in trial participation. ACS CAN will continue to work toward strong implementation of the law as intended.

Media Contacts

Trista Hargrove
Director, Media Advocacy - Health Equity
Washington, DC