Research on the Human Genome and Patentability: The Ethical Consequences
Journal of Medical Ethics. 1995 Apr; 21(2): 69-71.
The genome is one of the primordial elements of the human being and is responsible for human identity and its transmission to descendants. The gene as such ought not be appropriated or owned by man. However, any sufficiently complete description of a gene should be capable of being protected as intellectual property. Furthermore, all utilisations of a gene or its elements that permit development of processes or new products should be patentable. Ethics, in the sense of moral action, should come into play from the very first stages of research into the human genome. Protection of intellectual and industrial property is of purely legal concern and need not provoke ethical consideration. By contrast, the use of the results of, and in particular the commercialisation of products deriving from, research into the human genome, ought to be subjected to ethical consideration and control. Considering the economic and societal stakes of such research, ethical analysis ought to be at an international level if mistakes and unforeseen risks of conflict are to be avoided.
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