Chapter 25 Summary

1976-1988

On the other side of the country, around the time the Lackses found out about Henrietta’s cells being sold for profit, a white man named John Moore was diagnosed with leukemia. Doctors at UCLA removed his spleen, and Moore signed a consent form stating that the hospital could “dispose of [it] by cremation.” For several years after this operation, Moore flew frequently from his home in Seattle to a hospital in Los Angeles for what he believed were follow-up appointments. Eventually he got annoyed at all the traveling and informed his doctor, David Golde, that he wanted to see a physician closer to home. Golde offered to pay for Moore’s flights and lodging if he would continue coming to Los Angeles.

John Moore found it strange that a doctor would pay his travel costs, and stranger still when he was asked to sign a form giving up all rights “to any cell line or any other potential product” associated with his “blood and/or bone marrow.” The first time he saw this form, Moore gave his consent because it seemed imprudent not to do what doctors asked. The next time, his suspicions mounted, and he refused to give his agreement. Golde contacted Moore several times over the next few weeks to demand consent.

Eventually Moore hired a lawyer, who discovered that Golde had used Moore’s spleen to develop a valuable immortal cell line named Mo. Moore found it “dehumanizing” to discover that a part of his body was being grown and sold “like a piece of meat.” His lawyer soon found that the commercial value of the Mo line was about $3 billion.

John Moore’s spleen cells were unusually valuable because they carried a rare virus and produced special proteins that were useful to researchers. Most people’s cells would not be worth anything—but if Moore had known that his had value, he could have sold his tissues himself. A few other unusual patients have discovered this type of information and...

(The entire section is 515 words.)