Own Life

DNA money

Who owns life?  Simple question. We’d all like to think that we are our own owners. It’s my hand, my face, my eyes, my legs. Even when we die our organs can be donated only if we agree to it beforehand.

A few medical research companies are begging to differ though. They are arguing to the Supreme Court that they can patent specific genes in our genome, something we all have in our DNA.

Their position? Because these specific genes, which are linked to breast cancer, have been isolated and identified, they therefore are intellectual property. They are preventing other companies from pursuing treatments for these specific genes. They are also holding these gene locations hostage by not allowing doctors to view a patient’s DNA to determine if they have a gene for breast cancer.

It’s kind of like saying, ‘I found gold in a national forest, therefore it’s intellectual property and anyone who owns gold owns patented material.’

Let’s also keep in mind that the Human Genome Project actually mapped the entire human DNA sequence, not pharmaceutical companies.

Kind of bold I think. But they can’t own something we already own. If the Supreme Court buys this absurd notion then I won’t be able to take Tylenol for my headache because Advil has already patented my brain. If I have carpal tunnel syndrome, I can’t wear a brace because a surgeon has perfected some treatment.

It’s not like life hasn’t been patented before. Big Agriculture owns patents to products that they’ve genetically modified to be resistant to pesticides, endure tougher weather and grow in abundance. I disagree with those SCOTUS positions as well.

But at least in those cases, the genes were modified by the company, not simply discovered.

It’s yet another case of business vs. public good. If money can be made off of something, we suddenly see our rights restricted.

If the Supreme Court sides with the pharmaceutical companies, I guess I need to go down to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and file an application to patent knees. This way I can take Aleve when they hurt after a run.

Take that Ben Gay.


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