The Ethics of the Economics of Patenting the Human Genome

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

The U.S. patent office has granted patents on segments of human DNA to several biotechnology companies, enabling them to control the development of DNA-related “ products. ” While it is recognized that expanded knowledge of DNA codes is extremely important in helping to overcome genetic diseases, such knowledge can easily also be used to redefine genetically the human person. Much wisdom is needed for such an endeavor. This paper suggests that the market should not have control of this important knowledge because it is incapable of exercising such wisdom, specifically because of the salient traits that govern the market. Those traits are: expediency, efficiency, the need for quantifiable results, and impersonality. The very structures of the market necessarily lead to a deterministic and reductionist view of the human person and overlook important issues of distributive justice.

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