Presented By: Maureen Sander-Staudt, PhD Arizona State University Abstract In this paper a feminist care ethic is employed to evaluate claims of genetic ownership emerging at
Maureen Sander-Staudt, PhD
Arizona State University
In this paper a feminist care ethic is employed to evaluate claims of genetic ownership emerging at the intersections of personalized medicine and ancestry studies. The medical potential of distinctive human genetic materials is already well established, but ownership claims regarding these materials continue to be highly contentious. While ancestry studies promise to bolster personalized medicine by providing information that can aid in the diagnosis and treatment of genetically linked disease such as cancer, it also promises to complicate ownership claims by promoting familial DNA property claims and supporting charges of exploitation. Using precedential cases of gene patenting, including the cell lines developed from Henrietta Lacks and John Moore, and the BRAC test owned by Myriad Genetics, it is shown why individuals, especially from diverse or socially disadvantaged groups, have reason to distrust medical-ancestral research that may lead to patents. Cases of human genetic patents are recast as versions of the Heinz Dilemma, resolved by a feminist care ethic such that patents on human genetic materials are not forbidden on moral grounds, but should be obtained and used to maintain relationships in ways that are just and caring, to the benefit of those most in need of care. Caring principles suggest that human genetic materials belong primarily to those from whom they proximately originate, but also that genetic rights ought to be negotiable within networks of embedded relations, when used to reduce health disparities to the mutual benefit of all.
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