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Now enter Oprah. She’s the star of HBO’s new movieThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” based on Rebecca Skloot’s best-selling book and making its premiere Saturday night.

All of this has gotten people talking about the previously obscure world of research with discarded biospecimens, the parts left over after we undergo surgeries, biopsies and blood tests. Some are calling to change the rules, to require consent from patients before biospecimens are studied or to pay patients if specimens lead to medical advancements down the line. The Obama administration rejected these arguments, and many people are surprised to learn that, so long as information identifying the source of the specimen is removed, what happened to Ms. Lacks can still happen today.

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