Henrietta Lacks was a Baltimore County woman whose cells were taken from her when she was a patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. The cells were later developed into the first immortal cell line, and continue to be used in medical research.
Lawrence Lacks, the eldest son of Henrietta Lacks, on Monday expanded his complaints about medical and artistic treatment of his late mother's life to include Oprah Winfrey and HBO.
HBO and Winfrey dispute the claims.
Winfrey is starring in an HBO docudrama, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," set to premiere April 22 on the premium cable channel.
The docudrama revisits the life of the Baltimore County African-American woman "whose cells were used to create what's considered the first immortal human cell line," according to a news release from HBO announcing the film's premiere date.
Winfrey stars in the film as Deborah Lacks, a daughter of the Turners Station resident whose cells were taken before she died of cervical cancer in 1951. The film follows her search to find out about her mother's life.
Lawrence Lacks, who said he is the executor of his mother's estate, told The Sun last month that his family wants compensation from the Johns Hopkins University and possibly other institutions for what he characterized as unauthorized use of his mother's cells in medical research.
Hopkins told The Sun in a statement in February that rules of patient consent have changed since the time when Lacks' cells were taken and that Johns Hopkins has not profited from her cells.
The film is based on a non-fiction book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot. Rose Byrne plays Skloot in the film.
In February, Lawrence Lacks claimed that Skloot was inaccurate in chronicling the family and he raised questions about a foundation she had established. In a news release issued Monday, he reiterated charges of inaccuracy and exploitation -- even as he expanded his criticism to Winfrey and HBO.
Lawrence Lacks is quoted in the release as saying, "It's bad enough Johns Hopkins took advantage of us. Now Oprah, Rebecca and HBO are doing the same thing. They're no better than the people they say they hate."
In response to criticism from Lawrence in February, Crown Publishing Group, which published the book, said Skloot provided the manuscript to members of the Lacks family for comment and corrections that were put into the book.
"The veracity of the book ... has not been challenged in the seven years since its initial publication in February 2010," said a statement Crown Publishing sent to The Sun. "In the subsequent years, numerous members of the Lacks family have participated in interviews and public events in support of the book and of the need to tell the story of Henrietta Lacks."
On Monday, HBO released a statement to The Sun on behalf of the network and Winfrey, responding to Lawrence Lacks' statement:
"The filmmakers have taken great care to accurately and sensitively tell the story of Henrietta Lacks through the eyes of her daughter, Deborah. We operated with full transparency, and are pleased to have worked closely with five members of Henrietta's family who are serving as paid consultants on the film, including two of Henrietta's sons and three of her grandchildren.
"In an effort to secure Lawrence Lacks' input, HBO and the filmmakers offered him the opportunity to read the script, to become a consultant, and, ultimately, to view the film. Mr. Lacks, through his representatives, declined each offer. Both HBO and Oprah Winfrey have made separate donations honoring the legacy of Henrietta Lacks."