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A reflection on the morality of ownership of genetic material

The question of ownership of genetic material is highly relevant to
medical ethics at this point in our history. What has become a major
debate is how DNA can, and if it ought to be commoditised; and how
and if individuals can keep their genetic information private, or
whether it ought to be shared with all.
In this research report I question whether genetic information is
exceptional when compared with other medical or health-related
information. The Kantian view of commoditisation of the body and
human dignity is given along with some of the most prominent views
on self-ownership.
Patenting and genetic biobanking have received much attention in
recent years, I focus on these issues and moral questions that
surround these practices.
The idea of genetic information as a common and natural 'resource'
is discussed. If it is indeed a common heritage for all, how ought
individuals, populations, researchers and funders to relate to genetic
information? I briefly examine what some communities and cultures
may have to say about genetic information and I attempt to tie all
these varying perspectives together. I find that it is not ownership per se that is often the subject of
dispute, but how those who happen to have control over that
information share it. I present a possible maxim to guide the sharing
of genetic information with others; that patenting does not necessarily
amount to an affront to human dignity in the Kantian sense and that
inter-cultural perspectives on genetic information may differ
significantly. I conclude that how genetic material is shared, or not
shared and why seems to depend more on the population in question
at any given time and its social, political and economic structures
than on the question of ownership per se.
Date23 November 2011
CreatorsDe Carvalho, Candice Lee
Source SetsSouth African National ETD Portal
Detected LanguageEnglish
Formatapplication/pdf, application/pdf

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