P was a patient at UCLA Medical Center. He had hairy-cell leukemia and had to get his spleen removed.
D (Doctors) used P's cells to create a cell line and made lots of money off of it.
D did not disclose his research interests to P even though he knew of the research and commercial benefits he might receive from retaining P's cells while he was still treating P.
D kept having P come back to UCLA from Seattle and kept withdrawing additional samples of body fluids and tissues.
Supreme Ct of CA holds that there is a requirement for disclosure of physicians' research interest, but there are no property-related claims.
Can there be a property right claim to bodily fluids and tissues that have been removed from the body?
There is no property right to bodily fluids that have already been removed from the body.
Moore's complaint states a cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty or lack of informed consent, but not conversion.
Court discusses disclosure issue- says doctor was required to disclose research interests.
On conversion issue, Moore argues that he continued to own his cells following their removal from his body, at least for the purpose of directing their use.
No court has ever upheld conversion liability for this.
To impose such a duty would affect medical research and implicate lots of policy concerns.
To establish conversion, P must establish actual interference with ownership or right of possession.
Moore did not expect to retain possession of his cells following conversion, so he must have an ownership interest in them.
However, the subject matter of the patent, the cell line, cannot be Moore's property.
Moore relies on privacy rights and unwanted publicity
However, this is not property law, and a conversion claim must be based on property law.
Lymphokines have the same molecular structure and function in every human being. It is not like a name or a face, since they are not unique to Moore.
P's claim of ownership is also invalid because CA statutory law drastically limits a patient's control over excised cells for public health reasons. They can be used for research, but if they are not used for research they must be discarded.
This makes it difficult to call P's rights property rights.
The patented cell line is factually and legally distinct from the cells taken from Moore's body. It is the inventive effort that patent law rewards with a patent, not just the discovery of a naturally occurring raw material. D put the work in (labor theory), so he got the patent.
Next, court addresses whether conversion liability should be extended and answers in the negative.
We don't want to threaten civil liability for medical research for those researchers who have no reason to believe that use of a particular cell sample is against a donor's wishes.
The disclosure part of the holding upholds the desired policy without infringing on socially useful research.
Legislature should make this decision.
It is clear under CA la that before a body part is removed it is the patient, rather than his doctor or hospital, who possesses the right to determine the use to which the body part will be put after removal.
If, as alleged in this case, P's doctor improperly interfered with P's right to control the use of a body part by wrongfully withholding material information from him before its removal, P may maintain a conversion action.
Majority says P did not retain ownership interest in his cells after removal.
The argument that this is a decision for the legislature is crap; the whole point of having common law is that it can morph to changing needs.
In addition, commercial exploitation is not scientific use, so it shouldn't be covered by the statute permitting scientific use.
Even if it did include commercial use, it does not follow that P does not have a property right for purposes of conversion.
There are many cases in which the law forbids the exercise of certain rights over certain forms of property.
Patentability has significantly reduced the free access of researchers to new cell lines and their products. Therefore, application of the law of conversion in this case will not hinder research by restricted access.
The researcher who gets material does not have to be ignorant of limitations on its use, so if he is sure there is consent, there would be no conversion.
It is inequitable and immoral that P should not be compensated when without Moore's cells the profitable cell line would have never been created.