The Bioethics Debate

Kristi Ellis Mrs. Scheidt English 1301. 174 11 October 2012 Paper #2 – The Bioethics Debate In “Patenting Life,” by Michael Crichton, and “Bioethics and the Stem Cell Research Debate,” by Robyn S. Shapiro, they discuss gene patenting, medicine, stem cell research, and the laws of bioethics. According to Crichton and Shapiro, humans are all born with genes, stem cells, and organs that are part of our natural world, yet when the law tries to put limits on these rights it becomes unethical. Crichton and Shapiro both agree about the controversial issues surrounding science and medicine.

They both point out the unethical issues, the innovation in medicine, and the impact on science and medicine in relation to the law. In both essays Crichton and Shapiro list many immoralities that arise out of bioethical issues. For instance, Crichton refers to an example of the Canavan disease in which the process to find a cure was halted due to gene patenting. It was a prime example of an issue that was unethical because the owner of the gene for the disease could choose whether or not to charge for a test and choose how much to charge for it, which blocks medical innovations.

Crichton states, “There is no clearer indication that gene patents block innovation, inhibit research and put us all at risk” (432). Crichton goes on to say that genes are part of humans naturally and should not be privately owned (431). In comparison, Shapiro explains although embryonic stem cells give promise to the medical field, many ethical issues surround it such as the destruction of the embryo. Shapiro also writes that those who denounce embryonic stem cell research believe the embryo is already a human being with rights from conception, while others believe that human rights do not exist prior to birth (435).

Additionally, medical advancement is critical for innovation in both essays. Crichton states that gene patenting prevents medical testing and slows medical advancement. Not only does it halt research, but it causes the costs of medical testing to rise because the owner can charge whatever he wants (431). He mentions doctors cannot get information on if a medication will or will not work on someone because the lack of quality tests. Crichton says “For years we’ve been promised the coming era of personalized medicine – medicine suited to our particular body makeup.

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Gene patents destroy that dream” (432). In contrast, Shapiro states that stem cells are important to the medical field because they can turn into a wide array of cell types that can help people with diseases such as diabetes, nervous system diseases, and Parkinson’s disease (434-35). In addition, he says stem cell research could provide important information on how human organs and tissues develop, which could lead to development of new medications (435). In both sources, the law plays a significant role in the unethical issues surrounding science and medicine.

Crichton mentions how the United States Patent Office issued gene patents by mistake because of misinterpreted Supreme Court rulings. The issue of gene patents make it hard for people to donate their genes because most of the genes are privately owned (431). Crichton states that two congressman sponsored the genomic research and Accessibility Act, a bill that would ban patenting genes in nature (432). Shapiro denotes the growing importance of the law surrounding bioethical issues. He cites the United States Supreme Court cases of Roe v.

Wade and Stenberg v. Carkart which dealt with a partial birth abortion law. Shapiro states, “In state courts, bioethical considerations inform judges’ balancing of patient healthcare confidentiality with a “duty to warn” of potentially dangerous patient behavior (433). The most significant law Shapiro cites is the Dickey Amendment which prohibits federal funding for embryo research (436). Shapiro mentions in addition to federal funding restrictions, many states have laws that limit embryonic stem cell research.

Lastly, he cites the eligibility of federal patent protections significantly, the Thomson Patents (437). In conclusion, both Crichton and Shapiro can conclude the topics of gene patenting and embryonic stem cell research are unethical in some way. Although gene patenting blocks innovation and embryonic stem cell research promotes it, they both have laws that limit the impact on the world of science and medicine. According to Shapiro, “As these issues have moved to the center of public debate, the law has assumed an increasingly important place in the discipline of bioethics” (433).

Thus, when the law puts limits on human genetics it becomes unethical and immoral according to both essays in this bioethical debate. WORD COUNT: 740 Works Cited Crichton, Michael. “Patenting Life. ” Perspectives on Contemporary Issues: Readings Across the Disciplines. 6th ed. Ed. Katherine Anne Ackley. Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2012. 431-432. Print. Shapiro, S. Robyn. “Bioethics and the Stem Cell Research Debate. ” Perspectives on Contemporary Issues: Readings Across the Disciplines. 6th ed. Ed. Katherine Anne Ackley. Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2012. 433-438. Print.

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