Furthering of Tissue Rights

Similar Cases

Jesse Jerome Shipley

Jesse Shipley died in a car accident on January 2005. His parents, Andre and Korisha Shipley, were shocked after hearing from some of their son’s classmates that while at a field trip at the morgue they noticed ah jar on a cabinet in the medical examiner’s lab labeled Jesse Shipley, which contained a brain inside. The family agreed to an autopsy when Jessie died but they thought he was being buried with all his organs. The couple is suing the city for emotional distress caused by the handling of their son’s remains. Not only did the examiners only keep his brain, but they also kept parts of his liver and testes which were later returned and buried in a small casket with Jesse’s body.

Greenberg v. Miami Children's Hospital Research Institute

A group of individuals and nonprofit institutions involved in research on Canavan disease (Greenberg group) entered into a collaboration with Reuben Matalon, M.D., and the Miami Children’ s Hospital Research Institute (MCH) to identify the gene responsible for Canavan disease. The Greenberg agreed on the research, because they believed Dr. Matalon and MCH that the profits were going to remain in the public domain to promote prevention and treatment of Canavan disease which was not the case. The Greenberg group filed suit for lack of informed consent and conversion, among others. The courts in the Moore and Greenberg cases agreed that donors of biological materials do not have ownership rights in their biological materials and that researchers who obtain patents on inventions derived from the biological materials (and reap economic benefits from the patents) are not liable for conversion. However, the Greenberg case provides a legal basis on which donors could allege that researchers are unjustly enriched by licensee fees or other payments for patents based on inventions derived from their biological materials.

Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

The deliberate failure to treat a group of male Negroes in Macon County (near Tuskegee), Alabama who had syphilis begun in 1932 and ended, by unfavorable publicity, in 1972. This experiment is difficult to discuss, because so much was wrong with it. The U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) began using penicillin to treat syphilis in 1943 and penicillin became generally available in 1953. Despite this safe and effective treatment, which would have halted the progression of syphilis in the subjects, penicillin was deliberately withheld from the subjects. Not only did the PHS not give penicillin to their subjects, but the PHS(1) repeatedly distributed lists of names of subjects to local physicians and instructed the physicians not to give penicillin to these subjects and (2) supplied sham "treatments" to subjects, in an attempt to discourage subjects from seeking treatment elsewhere. The failure to treat this communicable disease violated Alabama law. In 1950-51, the PHS knew "that we have contributed to their ailments and shortened their lives." In the 1970's, the PHS offered the pretexual and lame excuse that penicillin would have harmed the participants if it had been given, but when penicillin was given in 1973, there were no adverse reactions. Dr. Vonderlehr, of the PHS, practiced a fraud on the subjects by offering a painful lumbar puncture as a "special free treatment", when, in fact, the procedure was purely diagnostic and only for the benefit of the researchers. The subjects were not informed that they had syphilis. Admittedly, informed consent would be extraordinarily difficult, because of the lack of education of the subjects: most were illiterate and many did not know their last name. One of the best educated subjects had completed only eight years of school. To the extent that the subject's lack of education made informed consent impossible, these people should never have been allowed to suffer for the benefit of the physicians. It would have been a different matter if the subjects had been treated benevolently, for example, given penicillin prior to 1954.