Benefit sharing and access to essential health care: a happy marriage?
Medicine and Law: The World Association for Medical Law 2008 March; 27(1): 53-69
In May 2003, one of the most important benefit sharing agreements to date was signed in South Africa. The South African San Council and the South African Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research agreed to share the benefits derived from genetic research on the Hoodia plant. Payments to the San Council started in 2005 and could reach 1.3 million US Dollars per year for approximately 15 years. Members of the San community in Southern Africa are exposed to serious poverty, resulting in malnutrition and avoidable illnesses. The question we are interested in is: could benefit sharing in compliance with the Convention on Biological Diversity be a partial solution to lack of access to essential health care? In the first part of the paper, we shall briefly introduce the legal background of benefit sharing and the San case. In the second part of the paper, we shall argue that benefit sharing and access to essential health care should not be formally linked. We shall substantiate our claim by introducing practical, normative and so-called 'bigger picture' reasons against the link.
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