Plaintiff, who was being treated for hairy-cell leukemia, allowed the removal of his spleen and repeated cell samples under the belief that this was necessary for his health. Physician servants of the Defendant used his tissue to develop and patent a cell line for commercial use. Plaintiff sued for conversion and breach of nondisclosure observations.
Questions of law
What ownership interest does an individual maintain in bodily tissue? What are the limits of conversion with respect to ownership interests?
The court found that plaintiff did not have a sufficient ownership interest to sustain a claim for conversion, no matter how egregious the defendants’ breach of fiduciary duty or lack of informed consent were.