The cultural watershed of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is the perfect Halloween treat of horror and comedy joining together, much like a Reece’s Peanut Buttercup.
In a tale of monsters, the Uniform Commercial Code, and possible insurance fraud, one legal issue towers above the rest: Dr. Sandra Mornay’s seduction of Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) in order to transfer his brain to the body of Frankenstein’s Creature without Grey’s medical consent.
Doctors in Florida (the state where Wilbur Grey and Chick Young worked for a shipping company), are required to explain to patients proposed medical procedures within the accepted standards of the medical profession, so that a reasonable person would understand the risks of undergoing the procedure, or alternatives. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 766.103(3)(a)(1) and (2).
Dr. Sandra Mornay conspired with Dracula to transfer Wilbur Grey’s brain to the body of Frankenstein’s Creature. While Mornay ultimately fell under the influence of Dracula, she had agreed to the “brain transfer” before falling under Dracula’s spell. After kidnapping Grey and transporting him to an island laboratory, Dr. Mornay explained the following procedure to Wilbur:
I’m not going to hurt you. Soon, instead of being short and chubby, you’ll be big and tall and as strong as an ox. And furthermore, you’ll live forever and never grow old.
I shall remove your brain and put it in his body.
Dr. Mornay explained the basics of the removing Wilbur’s brain and placing it in the Creature, but there was no discussion of how the procedure worked or risks. Moreover, “brain transfers” are outside the accepted standards of the medical profession, as seen by the lack of “brain transfers” performed by doctors. This is in addition to Dr. Mornay having the worst bedside manner ever and body shaming Wilbur after kidnapping him.
Florida law states that it is the duty of a physician to obtain the informed consent of a patient, which requires the patient to know the degrees of danger of the medical procedure to be performed. Cedars Med. Ctr., Inc. v. Ravelo, 738 So. 2d 362, 367 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1999). Wilbur was never a patient, but a kidnap victim who was being subjected to an unorthodox medical experiment. Even if the kidnapping is overlooked, Wilbur was being subjected to a medical procedure that was never fully explained without his permission.
Informed medical consent for any procedure, especially medical experiments, is to ensure patients understand the risks. Moreover, it is to protect patients from physicians who want to play Dr. Frankenstein.