Arthur Caplan talks bioethics, Henrietta Lacks at Brandywine campus

Henrietta Lacks, a poor, southern tobacco farmer, is known throughout the medical world for changing the course of science. Only, she'll never know. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at University of Pennsylvania, will discuss how Lacks' cancer-stricken cells, taken without her knowledge, became an important medical tool during his talk "Bioethics and Henrietta Lacks" at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, in the Tomezsko Classroom Building Lounge at Penn State Brandywine.

Though she has been dead for more than 60 years, Lacks’ cells, known as “HeLa cells,” remain alive today -- duplicated and grown in culture. These cells were vital in developing the polio vaccine and helped unlock clues to understanding cancer, viruses and the atom.

Caplan's talk is the first in a yearlong series of programs and events relating to the campus' Common Read Program, which encourages the campus community to read a book chosen at the beginning of the year and then explore it in a variety of ways. This year’s common read is "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot.

Caplan is widely known for his research on transplantation research ethics, genetics, reproductive technologies, health policy and general bioethics. He has a regular column titled “Breaking Bioethics” on and has published dozens of books on his research.

For more information on this free event open to the public, contact Patricia Hillen at 610-892-1372 or

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Last Updated January 09, 2015