The Ethics of Patenting the BRCA Genes for Breast Cancer Research
BRCA Background Information
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death for women after heart disease. Both BRCA genes are strongly associated with hereditary breast cancer. Mutated BRCA genes are thought to be responsible for a majority of inherited breast cancer cases. Those with BRCA gene mutations have a high risk of developing breast cancer. This high risk of breast cancer for mutation carriers has led many of them to have prophylactic surgery that removes the breasts.
In Europe and elsewhere, such as in Canada, Myriad has had patents on isolated forms of the BRCA genes since the mid-1990s. It is important to note that the patent is not on the BRCA genes in one’s body, but BRCA genes that have been isolated or extracted from the human body so that they may be studied in the laboratory. It is only through isolating genes from its natural environment that we may then examine the nucleotide sequences composing the genes and determine whether there are or are not any mutations....