“Patents” in Human Genome Ethics – Theological and Legal Considerations

Background: It is current practice for biotechnological companies that conduct innovative genetic research to develop patents, in order to safeguard their research results and inventions. Aim: Review of the ethical, theological and legal questions that arise from the application of patents in human genetics. Method: A literature review was conducted on review papers and original research articles from Medline, Scopus and ΙΑΤΡΟΤΕΚ databases, covering the period 1978–2008 and using as key-words: “Bioethics”, “patents on human genes”, “legislation”, “Orthodox ethics”. Results: The main ethical arguments expressed against patents in human genetics are the following: (a) Genes are present in nature and consequently genetic research constitutes not invention but discovery, and (b) “patents” on human genetic material will have negative consequences for both health care and health research. On the other hand, the biotechnological companies support their argument that genetic patents provide them with protection, which is important because they undertake the risk of investing enormous funds in genetic research with a view to introducing into the market new and useful products that will be of eventual benefit to society. The Orthodox church, applying anthropological teaching, is against the commercialization of health, considering that all persons should have equal access to medical services, independent of their economic situation or social origin. Finally, the documented legal approach to the issue of genetic patents is that human genes are an integral part of the human body and therefore genetic patenting follows the same principles that define the legal protection of individuals. When, however, the genetic material has undergone sufficient treatment and transformation, it is possible to get a patent. Conclusions: The welfare state should take the appropriate measures to protect human dignity, but also to promote scientific research. Whenever innovative genetic research leads to concrete biotechnological applications, it should be protected with authorization of a patent.

Category: Volume 50, N 4
Hits: 51 Hits
Created Date: 15-12-2011
Authors: George Katsimigas , Evridiki Kaba