Moore v. The Regents of U of California

Summary of Moore v. The Regents of U of California, S. Ct of California [1990]

Professional Negligence – Standard of Care-Breach of Fiduciary duty and lack of consent

Relevant Facts: Pl Moore visited UCLA medical center and was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia. Df Dr. Golde, recommended that his spleen be removed to slow down the progress of the disease, to which Moore consented. PL later found out that Dr. Golde made arrangements to use portions of his spleen in research. PL moved to Seattle but df required his presence, claiming the treatment had to be performed in CA. Df and others had been developing and then patented a cell line from pl’s cells and then licensed it for commercial development to Genetics Institute.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the df/dr. in seeking pl’s consent to remove his spleen , and prior to the surgery, disclose his personal economic or research interest that may affect his judgment?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: Pl filed a complaint w/ 113 causes of action (shotgun), inter alia, conversion and lack of informed consent. Trial ct. (df motion) dismissed the conversion and then dismissed the entire complaint. Ct of App reversed on the conversion, recommend that trial ct give pl leave to amend.

Law or Rule(s): The patient’s consent to treatment, to be effective, must be an informed consent, AND in soliciting the patient’s consent, a physician has a fiduciary duty to disclose all information material to the patient’s decision.

Court Rationale: Certainly a sick patient deserves to be free of any reasonable suspicion that his doctor’s judgment is influenced by a profit motive. A physician who treats a patient in whom he also has a research interest has potentially conflicting loyalties. The possibility that an interest extraneous [nonessential] to the patient’s health has affected the physician’s judgment is something that a reasonable patient would want to know prior to consenting. It is the prerogative of the patient, not the physician, to determine the direction in which he believes his interests lie. Disclosure of remote risks that are not central to the decision to administer or reject a procedure is not required.

Plaintiff’s Argument: Golde failed to disclose the extent of his research and economic interests in pl’s cells before obtaining consent.

Defendant’s Argument: The scientific use of cells that have already been removed cannot affect the patient’s medical interests.

Conversion is the intentional exercise of dominion or control over a chattel which so seriously interferes with the right of another to control it that the actor may justly be required to pay the other the full value of the chattel. Acquiring possession; damaging or altering; using it; receiving it; disposing it; mis-delivering it; refusing to surrender it are all means of conversion.

Good faith is not a defense. When demanded the goods must be return, thereby damages are mitigated.

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