Copyright (c) 2008 The University of Pittsburgh Law Review
University of Pittsburgh Law Review
NOTE: IN THE WAKE OF CATALONA: AN ALTERNATIVE MODEL TO SAFEGUARD RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS' INTERESTS IN THEIR BIOLOGICAL MATERIALS
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH LAW REVIEW
69 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 769
Kaitlin M. Piccolo+
On February 23, 2006, four men were indicted in connection with a $ 4.6 million dollar body-snatching scheme. 1 While working for Biomedical Tissue Services Limited, the men allegedly paid funeral homes $ 1,000 per body from which they mined tissues, organs, and bones without the consent of the deceased's families. 2 They then sold the parts for research, medical education, and transplantation. 3 Once harvested for valuable parts, the corpses were either cremated or stuffed with "PVC plumbing pipe in place of the bones" and sewed back up for a funeral. 4
Although an exceptionally gruesome analogy, the Biomedical Tissue Services scandal somewhat parallels how "elite universities . . . [and] prominent pharmaceutical companies" 5 have abused the rights of living persons with respect to their human biological materials. Such abuse has prompted exploration for a new legal framework to govern human biological materials. One proposed framework would grant people a property interest in their biological materials. 6
"The ramifications of recognizing and enforcing a property interest in body tissues are not known, but are greatly feared . . . ." 7 Historically, both courts and legislatures have resisted acknowledging property rights in the human body and its constituent parts. 8 Since Colonial America, the common law governed the disposition of human corpses. Not until the twentieth century did American courts grant the deceased's next of kin a quasi-property right in the deceased's body. 9 These rights include: "the right to possession and custody of the ...
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