Torts I, Pages 204–207

Moore v. Regents of the University of California

Supreme Court of California, 1990

Facts:

Moore had cancer and went to Dr. Golde of the UCLA medical center for treatment. Golde recommended a splenectomy, which Moore then underwent. While there, Golde noticed that Moore's T-lymphocytes, a certain type of white blood cell, overproduced certain lymphokines, proteins that regulate the immune system. After Moore's surgery and three years of research, Golde and another researcher named Quan used Moore's abnormal T-lymphocytes to developed a cell line that could produce lots of lymphokines. The Board of Regents of the University applied for a patent on the Mo cell line, as it was now known, listing Golde and Quan as the inventors. Gold later negotiated with a private company called Genetics Institute to give them exclusive rights to the research materials and any product in exchange for Golde receiving 75,000 shares of the Genetics common stock and Gold and the Regents receiving $110,000 per year for three years. Once Moore discovered the nature, extant, and results of the research, Moore sued Golde, Quan, the Regents, Genetics, and others.

Procedural History:

The defendants filed a general demurrer to the complainant and the trial court sustained it. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that Moore's complaint stated a cause of action for conversion.

Issue:

Can there be a cause of action when a doctor does not disclose his research interests when unrelated to the patient's health?

Plaintiff's Argument:

The defendants had converted his T-lymphocytes by using them without his consent or knowledge in their research to produce the Mo cell line. By failing to inform Moore of the planned use of his cells, Golde had not gotten his consent to perform the splenectomy and therefore breached his duty as Moore's physician.

Defendant's Argument:

Golde tried to explain his research to Moore before the surgery. At the time, Golde tried to create cell lines from all his patients, to which Moore orally consented.

Rule:

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  1. A physician must disclose personal interests unrelated to the patient's health, whether research or economic, that may affect the physician's professional judgment.
  2. A physician's failure to disclose such interests may give rise to a cause of action for performing medical procedures without informed consent or breach of fiduciary duty.

Reasoning:

Defendant did not know the value of plaintiff's cells during the initial test, so this was not listing as a cause of action. The spleen removal was definitely beneficial to Moore, but also had research interest for Golde, so he may be liable. The follow-up tests were purely for research purposes and he could also be liable for them.

Holding:

Yes, there may be a cause of action when a doctor does not disclose his research interests when unrelated to the patient's health.

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