Ownership Of Tissues
The issue of ownership of tissues was addressed in California in the case Moore v. Regents of the University of California. Moore underwent treatment for leukemia at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center. His spleen was removed, and his cells were cultured without his consent. Eventually, he sued the medical center over the ownership of the cell line that was developed from his spleen cells.
The California Supreme Court refused to recognize Moore's ownership of the cell line, pointing to the investment the medical center made to develop it. The court did not place much weight on financial or other contributions Moore made to the development of the cell line.
The court indicated that recognizing a patient's right to own such cells would chill medical research, as scientists would be required to determine the originators of each cell culture they use. Because of the large number of cell cultures used, such a requirement would be burdensome and expensive, and it would potentially halt important research, the court said. The court also noted that researchers establishing cell lines are increasingly using contracts to clarify patent and ownership rights, though in Moore's case none was signed.