Op-Ed

Since Moore v. Regents of the University of California, there has been a wide-ranging debate regarding the holding of the case and its implications for property law. Moore stands for the notion that individuals do not have a property interest in ordinary cells taken from their bodies during medical procedures nor the commercial products that researchers might develop from them. At the same time, cases such as Davis v. Davis and Hecht v. Superior Court have asserted that individuals maintain a property interest in other types of cells—namely embryos and gametes (eggs and sperm)—once they are removed from the body. This, among other developments, has led to a fragmented regime in property law pertaining to excised biological materials that turns, in large part, on the type of cell in question: individuals have a diminished interest in regular somatic cells (skin, muscle, etc.) while courts have recognized that people retain a heightened property interest in reproductive cells such as sperm, eggs, and embryos. The articulated reason for the differential property interests in these two cell types is that embryos and gametes...