Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Catalona Appeal Ruling: Patients Don't Control Their Tissues

Some time ago, I wrote this story for the New York Times Magazine titled, "Taking the Least of You: Those blood and tissue samples you routinely give - where are they? Who owns them? What are they being used for? And how come you don't know?" Since that story ran, I've been publishing updates here on the Washington University vs. William Catalona trial that I covered -- it was a potentially landmark court case that questioned whether patients can control the use of their tissues in research, and whether they retain any property rights in their excised body parts (in this case, Washington University claimed ownership of 6,000 tissue samples from patients who asked that their samples be removed from the university's prostate cancer bank, which is worth millions of dollars).

Well, here's another update: Initially, the court ruled in favor of Washington University, saying individuals don't own their tissues. Catalona and his patients appealed. This morning, the 8th District Court finally ruled on that appeal: Their decision states, "We affirm the well-reasoned opinion and judgment of the district court." In other words, they ruled against Catalona and his patients, saying that they don't own their prostate cancer tissues, Washington University does. You can read the full decision here.
This ruling is a serious blow to the patients' rights advocates who've spent decades fighting for people to have control how researchers use their their bodily tissues (and the DNA inside them). This ruling reaffirms the precadent set by the famous John Moore case. But the Catalona case isn't over yet, I'm sure. More on this decision, and the case, soon.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Having a Good Pet Death

My latest pets column, The Good Good-Bye, has just hit the stands in the July issue of Prevention Magazine. As you'll see, it's about something near and dear: Dealing with the loss of a pet both emotionally, and logistically.

In my 10 years as a veterinary technician, I helped euthanize many animals, including one of my own, so I understand that side of the death experience all too well. What I didn't know until I set out to write this column was what an enormous industry pet death has become: You can get an incredible variety of pet urns and coffins (including lifesized ones), you can have your pet's hair or ashes turned into a diamond, you can cryopreserve your pet in case science catches up with science fiction to make cloning possible (don't count on that one), you can even have your pet freeze dried in a variety of natural positions, so you can keep it with you at home looking frighteningly lifelike. Okay, yeah: Some of it is definitely bizarre. But hey, like I said in my column, if this stuff helps people recover from losing pets, who cares it seems weird to others.

On another note: I've finally arrived in Memphis, where I'm surrounded by boxes and lacking an Internet connection at home. So this blog will continue to be pretty quiet for a while. But more news from The South soon ...

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