Supreme Court Agrees to Decide Whether or Not Your Genes Can Be Patented

December 1, 2012
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James Watson (left) and Francis Crick (right) won the Noble Prize in 1962 for their work in discovering the double helix structure of DNA. The Supreme Court will soon decide if companies can patent parts of human DNA.

In July, TeenJury last reported on Molecular Pathology v Myriad Genetics.  This summer, a U.S Court of Appeals upheld Myriad’s right to patent two human genes that are linked to breast and ovarian cancer.  The two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, can be used to detect if women are at increased risk, and they can also help determine which treatment options are likely to be most successful.  Many doctors and medical associations feel that Myriad restricts access to needed medical care and that they should not be able to patent normal parts of nature.  Josephine Johnston, at the Hastings Center, an independent research institute, said, “one could argue that genes are owned by everybody.”  It is estimated that about 4,000 of the 22,000 human genes have been patented.  Peter Meldrum, Myriad’s CEO, commented that the innovations that they have discovered have taken significant resources and money, and without the ability to patent their work, future research may be hampered.  Perhaps the most remarkable brief in this case comes Nobel Prize winner Dr. James Watson, who, in 1953, along with Francis Crick, discovered the structure of DNA.  He argues against Myriad by stating that, “Life’s instructions ought not be controlled by legal monopolies created at the whim of Congress or the courts.”  The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June.

What do you think?

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One Comment

  1. We need to strike while the iron is hot! With this ltaest corporate personhood Supreme Court decision in the public arena, and with many in Congress speaking out against the decision , we should immediately campaign for a federal law to declare that corporations are not persons and have no claim to obtain human rights under the U. S. Constitution. Now is the time. The President and many members of both parties in congress have spoken against it. Lets ask all our members to send a letter to the President NOW before the state of union address if possible and ask him to support a bill merely to state the obvious, that a corporation is not a person entitled to Human Rights under the U. S. Constitution. At least that will be a start. If a Constitutional amendment is needed it can be done in time, but lets try this [a bill or executive order] for a start! I have been fighting corporate personhood for over 4 years and got it in the Maine Democratic platform, where there was absolutely no opposition to it. The people when they find out about it tend to be outraged that you need to define the English language in law to get your rights. It passed unanimously in the Maine Democratic Convention in 2004 and some Maine towns have passed ordinances as well. Everyone understands the issue fairly easily. Here is what I sent to the President via whitehouse.org, and my 2 senators and my congress woman, all 3 of whom have made public statements against this ltaest court decision. I request that you send a letter or petition on overturning this to your membership. Also lets partner with other groups and get them to start letter writing to their members to contact their congress reps and the president. We need to strike while the iron is hot!Unlike the way it was reported, the [Citizen United]] Supreme Court decision, which allows unlimited corporate political donations, is not just one free speech case, but one of a long train of decisions that allow corporations to escape nearly any government regulation under the century old false court doctrine that corporations are entitled to human constitutional rights because corporations are people [the so-called “corporate personhood” doctrine]. This case is being reported [by news corporations] as though it is an isolated incident, but it has been happening for a century. The personhood doctrine is far more damaging than just freedom of speech. If corporations are human, they are not only entitled to freedom of speech, but freedom from search and seizure, freedom of assembly, equal protection under the law and other human rights. The 22nd amendment, allowing equal protection under the law, was created for southern blacks to free them from Jim Crow justice in the south. After the corporate personhood doctrine it has been used over 200 times by corporations under this false corporate personhood doctrine and less than 10 times by real living human beings according to the book Unequal Protection by Thom Hartman. The original case, which hundreds of succeeding decisions used as a precedent, was never actually decided by the court, according to Hartman, but only in a footnote. Some have stated that the footnote itself was added by a clerk and was never actually part of the 1886 decision Santa Clara railroad decision. [Court records being poorly kept at that time.]Legislation supposedly trumps court precedent. Courts are supposed to consider the intent of the Congress when deciding a case. This is one of a series of cases where the court is legislating from the bench.A law passed by Congress stating that corporations are not persons entitled to human rights under the Constitution would extinguish the use of this false precedent again in the future. According to their statements the President and all 4 members of the Maine congressional delegation oppose this decision. I suggest one of them sponsor a bill that would state that no corporation is a person or can be considered to be a person for purposes of obtaining human rights under the United States constitution. This could be used in court to refute future the corporation argument that human rights are being violated by whatever law is being challenged.A Presidential executive order stating that corporations are not people may even be enough to prevent another use of this false doctrine by the Supreme Court.If the government acts on this matter alone it would have made the greatest contribution to human justice since women were given the right to vote.As a friend once said, If a corporation is a person, then a monkey is a hippopotamus.