Sunday, October 11, 2015

Should A Breast Cancer Gene Be Patented?

Even though a US firm Myriad Genetics currently holds a patent of one, is it even ethical for corporate firms to hold patents on a breast cancer gene?

By: Ringo Bones 

Recently, a Brisbane grandmother named Yvonne D’Arcy celebrated a High Court victory over the BRCA-1 breast cancer gene patent. Australia’s High Court says “human genes are not patentable invention” as Australia’s High Court overthrows previous ruling. Given the recent court decision, would this spell relief to working class cancer sufferers? 

During the past few years, campaigners are busy raising the issue of gene patenting because if corporations got what they wish for, cancer testing could become prohibitively expensive for working class folks due to exorbitant royalty fees. And every high court the world over not beholden by big multinational medical corporations still subscribe to the view that “corporations can patent something that naturally occurs in the human body”.  

The issue of gene patenting and its implications to social justice, and even medical ethics, had been around since 1992. Social justice campaigners had been concerned when corporate buccaneers became busy prospecting for “patentable biochemical agents” in the Amazon Rain Forest during the early 1990s. If big multinational medical corporations’ got their way, corporations could legally ask for Amazonian tribes to pay them money – as “royalty fees” - every time these tribes use their traditional healing herbs that they’ve been using for thousands of years. 

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