Is it ethical for a company to patent a gene, specifically the one that helps find out if a patient has breast cancer? Just a few weeks ago the courts ruled that the patent for the “breast cancer gene” filed by Myriad Genetics was immoral. Judge Clarence Thomas stated that the company had not created the gene and that this was not an act of invention. One of the main reasons a case like this is prevalent to you is that it says that certain traits cannot be patented. As we shift into times where biotechnology becomes more prevalent we can only hope that ethics and morality help make sure that certain companies are not capitalizing on things that they didn’t invent. Another major result of this case is that companies will now be able to offer the test to search for breast cancer at a lower price (995 dollars) down from the average cost of 5000 dollars as the test was more costly due to the royalties associated because of the patent. As technology advances and companies are able to find easier ways to find solutions to diseases the question of self-interest arises.
Jonas Salk once said that the polio vaccine could not be patented as it belonged to the people. With most of the cancer research being done in institutions we can only hope that once a cure is found the company will release it to the public and not try to make an enormous profit from something so critical to solving people’s problems. As more cases like this pop up in the supreme court we can only hope that the justice system remains to serve the people’s best interests.