Thursday, July 4, 2013

Supreme Court Rules Drug Companies Cannot Patent Your Genes

Imagining What It Would be Like if the Ruling Had Gone the Other Way

[To celebrate the freedoms granted to the people of the United States by the Declaration of Independence this Forum examines what might have happened had drug companies won the right to patent your genes.  Saracasm, satire and redicule, American values all.]

In a 9 to 0 decision, written by of all people Clarence Thomas (after 20+ years on the Court they finally trust him with an important opinion) the Supreme Court has said that no, companies cannot patent genes because they are a naturally occurring part of the body.

The case concerned patents held by Myriad Genetics, a Utah company, on genes that correlate with an increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. The patents were challenged by scientists and doctors who said their research and ability to help patients had been frustrated. . . ..

“Myriad did not create anything,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court. “To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.”

Now given the unbridled greed of private business, if Myriad and others had been able to legally patent genes it is entirely possible that individuals in the United States would very soon have engaged in the following conversation with those companies.

Hi I'm Susan with Medical Greed, Inc.

(ring, ring, ring)

Regular Person (RP):  Hello

Representative, Medical Greed, Inc (Susan):  Hi.  This is Susan from Medical Greed.  I am calling to inform you that we have a patent on some of your genetic material.  And according to our records you are not only using our genes, but also your body reproducing them in new cells without our permission.

RP:  Uh, okay, so what is this about?

Susan:  Well, I am afraid that I have to inform you that since we have a patent on your genes and you do not have any arrangement with us to use them, we are going to have to ask for them back.  So I would like to set up an appointment for you, where for the cost of only $25,000 you can visit our genetic specialist who will remove our genes from your body.  We will ask for payment in advance, since the procedure will kill you.

RP:  That doesn’t seem right, is there something else I can do?

Susan:  Glad you asked.  If you want to continue to use and reproduce our genetic material in your body, we will sell you a license.  With the license you have unlimited right to your genes.  The cost is only $995.00.

RP:  Well, I guess I can afford to pay $995.00 for a one time license.

Susan:  I’m sorry, I was not clear.  The $995.00 is a monthly fee.  But the good news is that we guarantee we will not raise the price during the first 12 months so you see, you have great protection until 2014.

RP:  I have passed your genes onto my children.  Are they covered by this payment?

Susan:  Good heavens, no.  And also I forgot to tell you that because reproduction would pass our genes potentially onto your new children, under our license you cannot engage in any sexual activity whatsoever with a member of the opposite sex.  But the good news is that if you are gay then you can have all the sex you want.  We think we are one of the first companies ever to go this far in advancing the rights of gay and lesbian Americans.

RP:  You know, none of this sounds legal.

Susan:  We didn’t think so either, but the Supreme Court said it was ok.  And just to thank them we are offering members of the Court a special discount.

RP:  I am calling my Congressman.

Susan:  Good luck, we gave her the discount too.

RP:  (hangs up)

Well there you have it everyone, that is what was avoided by Justice Thomas and his colleagues.  And we never thought we would be saying this, but thanks Justice Thomas, Happy 4th of July to you!

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes the Court lets Thomas write the unanimous opinions. Normally he is left to write his lone dissents, which are so frightening that not even Scalia will join them.