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Who Owns Your Fat?

Forbes reports that a Beverly Hills physician who removes human fat by liposuction uses the fat as fuel for two biodiesel SUVs (his Ford model and his girlfriend’s Navigator). Apparently, “A gallon of grease will get you about a gallon of fuel, and drivers can get about the same amount of mileage from fat fuel as they do from regular diesel, according to Jenna Higgins of the National Biodiesel Board.” The irony is almost as good as Fight Club where the miscreants use leftover human fat to create soap which they sell the same upper class folks that were the source of the fat (“about the soap] Tyler sold his soap to department stores at $20 a bar. Lord knows what they charged. It was beautiful.”).

Now the physician had a Web site (no longer up) on which he claimed that

The vast majority of my patients request that I use their fat for fuel–and I have more fat than I can use,” … Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly but they get to take part in saving the Earth.

Yet according to Forbes, it is illegal to use human medical waste to power vehicles. Really? We have a law about using human waste to power vehicles? What about the Moore case? That one seemed to say that human waste is just that waste, garbage to which the patient had no claim (although there was a nod to proper disposal of medical waste). In addition, could it be that a doctor could take one’s cells etc and develop new drugs but the law would prevent using one’s fat to fuel a car? Why?

The article notes that an attorney has claimed the doctor in this case “removed too much fat from clients and left them disfigured” and that several others have complained to the state. So is this a conversion claim and a public health question. Maybe conflict of interest? All of them? I am not sure what the policy behind this one is. Most likely there is not a specific ban on this use of human medical waste but rather a general prohibition on use of human medical waste. Nonetheless, the oddity and irony of this one makes me wonder whether a patient should be able to negotiate to take home their fat or get a discount on the procedure for letting a doctor use the by-product as he or she wishes.