PATENTING NEW LIFE FORMS: A DILEMMA IN BIOETHICS AND THE LAW
AbstractTwo years ago Justice Michael Kirby wrote: The dynamic forces of science and technology affect the definition of human rights. It could scarcely be otherwise in the last years of the twentieth century. Our time has seen many remarkable scientific and technological developments. They profoundly affect the individual, the social environment, the relationships of nation states and the planet. They reach out into space. The dreams of scientists of yesterday become the fascinating achievements of today and the prospects of tomorrow. In this article the authors wish to consider an important and increasingly controversial legal aspect of one of the 'dynamic forces' of science and technology in the 1980's: genetic engineering. Two questions will be addressed in the ensuing pages: is it presently possible to patent the results of genetic engineering research on living organisms and is that position in law one which should be retained or altered in some way or other? It will be seen that the second question requires consideration not just of legal issues but of economic, moral and political issues as well.
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