postitas: tonylogan - 03.08.2020, , loetud: 692x
The bioethical dilemma about whether or not human genes should be patented has been argued since the implementation of the Human Genome Project. The center of the argument has been the question about whether or not the genetic discoveries can be considered as an invention and whether there is any associated intellectual property for the existing laws to protect. The purpose of this discussion post help is to discuss the dilemma of gene patents and to suggest appropriate recommendations regarding the problem.
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the products of nature and abstract ideas cannot be patented. Thus, many people argue that genetic information is discovered and not invented and therefore a patent regarding it cannot be legitimately granted. Others promote a different view, which states that discovering a certain gene within the DNA sequence requires a lot of intellectual efforts and other resources. Hence, such inventions must be protected from unauthorized exploitation.
The subject of genes patent exclusivity has produced numerous challenges in both scientific and medical realms. Patent holders can prevent health care providers from utilizing the discovery, which could help in developing therapeutic and preventative strategies or from conducting research in order to improve accuracy of genetic testing. In such a way, the bioethical dilemma has a substantial detrimental impact on the practice of medical scientists and healthcare providers. Withholding the data regarding genetic discoveries can dramatically diminish the amount of available clinical knowledge and thus significantly slowdown the pace of innovation.
Gene patenting has not escaped the criticism from a variety of interested parties. Researchers who want to develop a gene therapy related treatment are opposed to the idea of gene patenting because it limits the scope of relevant empiric data. They claim that gene patents are inhibiting scientific research and the clinical application of genomics. Many researchers delay publishing their studies because they want to protect their financial interests. Given the fact that many if not most of the known diseases possess a genetic component, such tendency adversely affects the current state of affairs in the health care system. Nevertheless, there are strong advocates who firmly believe that holders of patents have a right to dictate how their discoveries could be used in both commercial and noncommercial environments. Some advocates suggest that patents actually encourage innovation and provide security so as to encourage investing in the inventions in order to maximize their commercial profit.
Patent holders have a right to secure the right to their invention, as long as the gene is isolated from its natural environment. When the patent is granted, the holders can control its usage in clinical genetic testing or in research applications. Because of the possibility to patent isolated genes, patients can still become a valuable source of commercial gains. Thus, patients have the right of having their bodies not exploited for any purposes beyond individual care. In other words, healthcare providers are not allowed to use patients’ genetic essence in their financial interests without the patients’ formal permission.
As a patent holder can restrict usage of a disease-related gene during a testing procedure, concerns arise about the quality of genetic testing as well as its accessibility and affordability to the general public. The patent holder might require that clinical organizations and researchers utilize a more expensive test, not to mention that they would need to pay the associated licensing fees. It becomes clear that such state of affairs can negatively affect the quality of life, since the general population will not be able to afford proper and up-to-date care. Therefore, medical professionals are obliged to avoid the possible conflicts of interest. A variety of laws supports the policy that healthcare providers must act in the best interests of the patients while searching for a valuable gene. Since bioethical dilemmas are often quite perplexing, it is essential to select a suitable approach to the decision-making process. More specifically, people have a fundamental right to be treated with dignity and not to be manipulated objects. Though each clinical situation is unique and there is no universal decision-making model, the human health, life, and well-being should be the first priority for all the subjects in the healthcare system.
The ability to patent isolated genes can have deep negative implications for the medical professionals and advanced practice generally. For instance, there was a case when a researcher was searching for lucrative genes in a patient who was not aware that he was a subject of the study and thus did not give consent. The patient was diagnosed with hairy-cell leukemia, but the physician took samples not only of the patient’s blood but also samples of sperm and skin, thereby pursuing personal goals rather than those of the patient. Overall, we can recommend that policy-makers should consider prohibiting patent genes altogether in order to ensure that gene-related discoveries will be employed in ways that are beneficial to the society. Otherwise, the implementation of gene patents would be contrary to the principles of basic human morality.
It is worth noting that I have also encountered some bioethical dilemmas in my clinical practice. For example, I witnessed a situation when an individual whose genes were patented could not afford genetic testing that was developed using his bodily essence. Since health plan operators and other healthcare providers should pay a substantial amount of licensing fees, the cost of molecular genetic tests increases accordingly, and this can ultimately result in potential harm to a patient. In this case, the policy makers should introduce patent pools in order to make genetic discovery and its results available to the public. The innovation should be licensed in an affordable manner, so that researchers and clinicians will be no longer restricted in their clinical practice.
All in all, the dilemma gene patents has a profound influence on the healthcare system. Gene patent holders can hinder the development of genetic testing and thus have a substantial impact on the quality and accessibility of health care services to the public. This has also demonstrated another point of view that argues that in some situations gene patents can actually stimulate the process innovation. Thus, the policy-makers should examine a vast range of alternatives in order to ensure that gene patents do not inhibit progress of medical science and translation of biomedical research findings into practical application.