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Richards v. Holder
United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts
Civil Action No. 13-13195-LTS, 2014 WL 2805280 (2014)
James Richards (plaintiff) was suffering from end-stage kidney failure. As a result, Richards was undergoing lengthy and painful dialysis sessions multiple times per week. Richard’s best treatment option was to receive a kidney transplant as soon as possible. Richards was on the waiting list for a kidney, but without a perfect match, he would likely have to wait an additional four or five years for a kidney to become available. Richards’s family members either were not a match or did not wish to donate a kidney. However, Richards’s family was willing to offer $50,000 to anyone willing to donate a kidney. Richards believed compensation would encourage a kidney donation, but federal law 42 U.S.C. § 274e made the sale of human organs for purposes of transplantation a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines. The law also prevented Richards from selling his own organs after his death and adding the proceeds of the sale to his estate for the benefit of his heirs. Richards sued United States Attorney General Eric Holder (defendant), alleging violation of his substantive-due-process rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment because the law prevented him from offering money for a kidney donation. Essentially, Richards asserted a due-process right to buy a kidney. However, Richards did not show that buying a kidney was a fundamental right. Also, Richards argued that the fact that the law prevented him from selling his organs after death effected a public taking of private property without just compensation. However, Richards did not show that Massachusetts law or even common-law principles recognized a property interest in the selling of organs after death. Holder moved for dismissal of both claims for failure to state a claim.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Sorokin, J.)
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