Re: Blocks for sale

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Interesting point Kim.
This is a similar problem to the current one faced by many UK labs concerning
retention of tissues. In the UK, the Nuffield Bioethics Council reported on
the legal and ethical considerations which apply to ownership of human
tissues, and they suggested that surgical tissues should be assumed to have
been abandoned by the patient (ie no continuing legal rights in ownership).
This is not quite the same as a patient giving tissues to the lab and the
council concluded that human tissue should never be sold for profit. If
tissues are sold, then the vendor should cover no more than operating costs.
Our local region has a "control" exchange system in which control blocks are
given or swapped, but not sold. On the rare occasions on which we have needed
to dispose of human tissues (in blocks and slides) we have always destroyed
In the US the position might be different. There was a celebrated, much
discussed, legal case which seems to accept the sale of human tissue (or at
least products directly derived from surgically excised human tissue) for
profit. Moore v Regents of the University of California concerned a patient
whose spleen was legally removed by a physcian. The physcian later used cells
from the specimen to develop a treatment regimen, the value of which was
estimated at $3 billion in 1990. When the patient found out (he had never
been asked) he sued in tort for conversion (the civil equivalent of theft)
but lost. The Supreme Court (of California) held that because his tissue had
been altered (by the phycian) Mr Moore could no longer claim that the tissue
belonged to him. I wonder if this reasoning would apply to blocks of human
tissue too?

Just a thought!


Glyn Woodward

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