By Adithi Iyer
As the provision of human tissue leaves the research realm and becomes a bona fide consumer transaction, our legal responses to these developments will be most effective when we know what we want to protect, and how.
Perhaps the most famous discussion around tissue “donation” comes from the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family. Ms. Lacks is the namesake and unknowing donor of HeLa cells, and subject of the Rebecca Skloot bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In a settlement obtained just this past summer with manufacturing giant ThermoFisher, the Lacks estate (Ms. Lacks herself died of an aggressive cervical cancer in 1951) obtained a confidential payment for the unconsented taking of her cells for research. The settled case was built on an unjust enrichment claim, and while this wasn’t decided on the merits, it raises the question of whether a provision of tissue is a transfer of value. If so, what are our ownership stakes in that value? Read More