Moore v. Regents of the University of California (1990)

IRAC Summary

Issue: The central issue in Moore v. Regents of the University of California concerns the extent of a patient’s property rights in his or her own body tissues after those tissues have been removed during medical procedures. Specifically, the case examines whether a patient must give informed consent for the use of his excised cells in medical research and whether the patient has property rights in the commercial products developed from his cells.

Rule: The court must apply principles of property law, the law of informed consent, and breach of fiduciary duty. The court relies on existing statutes and case law regarding patients’ rights and the use of human cells in research.

Application: The court analyzed the facts to determine whether Moore retained property rights in his cells after they were removed and whether the defendants had an obligation to disclose their research intentions and any potential economic benefits derived from Moore’s cells.

Conclusion: The California Supreme Court held that Moore did not retain property rights to his cells after their removal. However, the Court found that the defendants had a duty to disclose their research and economic interests in the cells, and that Moore’s lack of informed consent could form the basis for claims of breach of fiduciary duty, lack of informed consent, and conversion.

Detailed IRAC Outline

The central issue is whether John Moore had property rights in his cells or could claim a share of the profits from the medical products developed from his cells without his consent, following a splenectomy performed at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center (UCLA).

For property rights, the court considered the established legal principles that guide the ownership and use of human cells and tissues once they have been excised from the body. It also reviewed the law on informed consent, which requires that patients be fully informed about medical procedures and the use of their tissues.
For breach of fiduciary duty, the court examined the obligations of doctors to their patients, particularly regarding conflicts of interest and full disclosure of personal interests in the patient’s tissues.

The court reviewed the facts of the case, including the actions taken by the doctors and researchers in using Moore’s cells for research and commercial gain without his knowledge or consent. The application involved assessing whether Moore’s rights had been violated according to the established legal rules.

The court concluded that Moore did not have property rights over his cells once they were removed from his body, as there was no established precedent for property rights extending to excised body cells. However, the court did find potential causes of action for breach of fiduciary duty, lack of informed consent, and conversion, based on the failure of the defendants to disclose their intentions and the potential profits from Moore’s cells.

Relevant Facts and Discussion

The specific legal issues presented by the facts of Moore’s case include whether a patient has property interests in excised cells and whether the physician’s duty to disclose extends to potential research and economic benefits originating from the patient’s cells.

The rules in this case draw from past legal precedents on property rights and informed consent,
as well as fiduciary responsibilities of medical professionals towards their patients.

The court meticulously examined the actions and interactions between Moore and his physician, Dr. Golde, who discovered that Moore’s cells were valuable for research and commercial purposes. The application of the law to these facts involved assessing whether Moore’s lack of awareness and consent regarding the use of his cells and the potential profits that could be derived from them were legally actionable.

The final judgment acknowledged that while Moore did not have property rights in the cells themselves, there were actionable claims based on lack of informed consent and potential breaches of fiduciary duty because of the physician’s failure to disclose personal interests in the cells and the related research. The court remanded the case for a determination of these issues.

By resolving these legal issues, Moore v. Regents of the University of California established important legal precedents regarding the commercial use of human biological materials and the scope of a patient’s rights in relation to their tissues once they are removed from the body.

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