Sunday, 8 June 2014

Whose tissue is it, anyway?

Landmark case.
      If you think your tissue is your own once it is separated from you, think again.  In a precedent setting landmark case in Ontario the court ruled that excised human tissue belongs not to the person from whom it came but to the institution that holds it. Its hard to imagine why anyone would care and I think it's appropriate that it should belong to  the institution because there is a greater likelihood that this would be of  research or teaching value.  It would also be available for a retrospective review where subsequent diagnostic doubt may arise.  I can't imagine many patients saving the tissue for future reference. There are not many reasons I can think of that a patient would want such tissue, or control of it, other than in some rare medico legal issue and that is precisely how this case arose.  In order to verify his diagnosis a physician petitioned the court to examine a small block of liver tissue taken in 2009.  Because it was not clear to whom the tissue belonged the doctor had to seek permission. In this case the court made a rational  and for Ontario, precedent setting decision and determined the tissue belonged to the institution and not to the patient.
       The other reason is a financial one.  If your tissue is used for research and this leads to a new drug or test, that turns out to be a big money maker, if you own the tissue strain that is being used, then you are in a position to profit mightily. 

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