Writing in the Washington Post, Kari Lydersen has a short and quite good summary on the pros and cons of gene patents link here
. In the case under examination, a woman thinks she might have a gene that predisposes her to breast and ovarian cancer in which case she can decide on preemptive surgery. But, she can't afford the expensive test and it is not covered by her state's Medicaid (other states' Medicaid programs do cover the test). Her story ends up well enough--for her, but probably not for many people.
The article covers the pros and cons of gene patents and the dilemma they present. It doesn't, however, discuss how the applicable patent system might be modified, for example, by having the government pay for the research and development, probably through contracting with the private sector, and then making the test widely available at an affordable price.
This story does make the point, though by inference, that we have a busted health care system as well of a dysfunctional patent system which violates our generally accepted sense of what is right.
The following statement from Lydersen's article is one of those artificial distinctions that give our legal system bad press: "While it is illegal to patent products of nature, laws of nature or abstract ideas, federal courts have decided that a DNA sequence that has been extracted and isolated does not qualify as a product of nature.
". Its like the defendant's claim that the person who he shot did not die from a gunshot, but the loss of blood therefore he is innocent.
For the sake of argument, even if we assume that a patent could be granted concerns remain over patenting a concept versus an actual test. One should NOT be able to patent the concept of testing for cancer, they could however develop and patent a specific test for cancer. Others should be able to develop and patent their own tests for cancer.
An additional thought. Lydersen also writes: "They say that Myriad's patents on the isolated BRCA sequences impede research and women's access to their own genetic information
So how can a private company essentially seize a private property right over information gathered from an individual? This leads to further legal convulsions. The simplest approach, don't allow patents for this type of research.
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