Tuesday, February 13, 2007

This week's theme: the commodification of life

Two articles have appeared recently in the last week that demonstrate the need to consider how a market-driven economy and the notion of human dignity and beneficence are not always compatible:

From Reason Online: Who Owns Your Body Parts? ... Alistair Cooke's body lay cold in the embalming room of an East Harlem funeral home, suspended in the brief limbo between death and cremation. A "cutter" soon arrived to make a collection. He sliced open Cooke's legs, sawed the bones from the hip, and took them away. The quintessentially British presenter of Masterpiece Theatre and Alistair Cooke's America—the face of genteel, urbane Albion to millions of Americans—was being carved up for parts. For more on this story, click here.

And an Op-Ed from Michael Crichton in the NY Times: Patenting Life - One-fifth of the genes in your body are privately owned, and the results have been disastrous:

YOU, or someone you love, may die because of a gene patent that should never have been granted in the first place. Sound far-fetched? Unfortunately, it’s only too real.

Gene patents are now used to halt research, prevent medical testing and keep vital information from you and your doctor. Gene patents slow the pace of medical advance on deadly diseases. And they raise costs exorbitantly: a test for breast cancer that could be done for $1,000 now costs $3,000.

Why? Because the holder of the gene patent can charge whatever he wants, and does. Couldn’t somebody make a cheaper test? Sure, but the patent holder blocks any competitor’s test. He owns the gene. Nobody else can test for it. In fact, you can’t even donate your own breast cancer gene to another scientist without permission. The gene may exist in your body, but it’s now private property. Click here to read on.

2 comments:

Andrew Chin said...

Crichton's knowledge of patent law is spotty, but he's on the right side of the debate. For a more detailed discussion, please see my blog.

Jonah2015 said...

Certainly a vital issue. In today's world the line between mass production or other aspects of modern society and the commodification of life (both animal and human) becomes increasingly blurred. Those interested in reflecting on the commodification of life within the borader context of Globalization and Spirituality might find this web site of interest: http://www.digitalspirituality.org/index.html