Before a routine doctor’s visit at UCLA, I received an innocuously-worded text message asking me to voluntarily fill out a form conveying all rights in my “medical waste” to UCLA.


This sparked my remembrance of John Moore and the infamous use of his discarded spleen to create a billion-dollar enterprise…

The John Moore cancer cell controversy involves a legal case that took place in the 1980s, which raised ethical and legal issues about the ownership of human biological materials and the rights of patients to control the use of their own tissues.

In brief, John L. Moore was a patient diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia in 1976. He received treatment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where doctors removed his spleen and other tissues for medical research. Unbeknownst to Moore, UCLA researchers subsequently developed and patented a cell line (known as the "Mo" cell line) [U.S. Patent No. 4,438,032 -- Mar. 20, 1984] derived from his cells. The cell line was found to have commercial potential, and UCLA licensed it to a biotechnology company to develop new drugs.

Moore later found out about the Mo cell line and filed a lawsuit against UCLA and the researchers, claiming that they had violated his rights to his own tissues and had exploited his cells for financial gain without his consent. The case went to trial, and the court ruled in favor of Moore, finding that he had a property interest in his cells and tissues and that UCLA had violated his rights by not obtaining his informed consent for using his cells in research. However, subsequent appeals by UCLA proved fruitful, and Moore was denied compensation for his involuntary "contribution" to science.

[OCS: “It was further alleged that ‘for years after the surgery, the UCLA researcher would call Moore in for follow-up exams and to obtain samples of bone marrow or blood. Moore eventually discovered that those exams were not for his benefit alone—the Researcher was developing and patenting a cell line called Mo (today worth about $3 billion). Moore sued the researcher and UCLA, claiming they had deceived him and used his body for research without his consent. Moore lost the case, Moore v. Regents of the University of California, and the Supreme Court of California ruled that once tissues have been removed from your body, your claim on them has vanished. The researcher had done nothing illegal, but our sense of fair play says that something is wrong here.’”]

The John Moore case raised a number of important ethical and legal issues related to using human biological materials in medical research. Some of the key issues include:

  1. Ownership of human biological materials: The case raised the question of who owns human biological materials, such as cells and tissues, once they have been removed from the body. The court found that patients have a property interest in their own tissues and that this interest extends to any commercial products that may be developed from those tissues.

  2. Informed consent: The case highlighted the importance of obtaining informed consent from patients before using their tissues for research purposes. The court found that UCLA had failed to obtain Moore's informed consent for using his cells in research, which was a violation of his rights.

  3. Commercialization of human biological materials: The case also raised concerns about the commercialization of human biological materials and the potential for patients to be exploited for financial gain. The court found that UCLA had licensed the Mo cell line for commercial purposes without Moore's knowledge or consent, violating his rights.

  4. Patient autonomy: The case emphasized the importance of respecting patient autonomy and giving patients control over what happens to their own tissues. The court's ruling affirmed that patients have the right to make decisions about the use of their own tissues and to be informed about how those tissues will be used.

The Moore case significantly impacted how medical researchers and institutions now handle human biological materials. The case helped to establish a legal precedent for patients' rights to control the use of their tissues and set the stage for the development of ethical guidelines and informed consent procedures for medical research involving human subjects.

Bottom line…

Although John Moore, 56, passed away in a Seattle, Washington, hospital on October 1. 2001, after undergoing an experimental treatment for his disease, we owe him a debt of gratitude for pursuing a case that helped to define our rights as patients. 

And, no, I did not sign the consent form. 

We are so screwed.

-- Steve

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

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