News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel

News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel
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Agreement on Use of Genetic Information from 61-Year-Old Cervical Cancer Cells Sets New Ethical Privacy Standards for Clinical Pathology Laboratories

Family of Henrietta Lacks, who died in 1951, will have a say in the research use of the  HeLA cancer cells

Patient privacy rights involving genetic information has gone to a new level. Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers will want to understand the legal precedents and new standards established in an unprecedented agreement between the family of a woman who died in 1951 and the growing research establishment studying her cervical cancer cells following her death.

It is a human interest story that attracted global media attention this summer. The immortal cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks—known in research laboratories as “HeLA” cells—are finally coming under legal protection after more than 60 years of travelling the globe.

It was 1951 when Lacks died of an aggressive form of cervical cancer, but her cancer cells were grown without consent of relatives and have been used worldwide in cancer research since her death. Lacks’ living relatives sought and recently obtained a legal agreement with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to protect their DNA privacy, according to a story published in USA Today. (more…)

Oprah Endorses Laboratory Tests as Life Savers for 2009

Several key laboratory tests have a prominent place on Oprah Winfrey’s “Ultimate Checklist” for a healthy life. Oprah, long a champion of personal accountability for one’s own health, kicked off the New Year with a focus on health improvement through self-help activities. It is another example of how consumers are being educated about the importance of using laboratory tests as guideposts to improve their health.

With a theme of “Best Life Week”, Oprah featured her medical expert Dr. Oz and his advice on how people can get healthy and peel years off their bodies. Laboratory tests play a prominent role in Dr. Oz’s “Ten Step Ultimate Health Checklist. Under step five, “Know Your Numbers”, Oprah urged her listeners to pay attention to five laboratory tests:

  • Cholesterol, with LDL less than 100 and HDL greater than 40
  • Blood sugar
  • Vitamin D
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

Also included in the “Know Your Numbers” step were recommendations to check waist size and monitor both blood pressure and heart rate.

Other recommendations in the “Ultimate Health Checklist” were to get a medical check-up; recruiting a health advocate; securing a copy of personal medical records; and getting diagnostic and preventive medical tests and screenings on time.

Oprah’s promotion of Dr. Oz and his recommendations for better improving personal health makes for good ratings. Lab administrators and pathologists should take that as a sign that consumers are interested in healthcare. Another sign of how important television has become as a source of health information is the selection of CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, M.D. to be Surgeon General in the new administration. Expanding media coverage of health and wellness topics plays to the strength of medical laboratories. Media coverage of health issues creates an opportunity for laboratories piggyback on this interest and market directly to consumers. – P. Kirk

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