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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