Genetic testing, ethical concerns, and the role of patent law

Clin Genet. 2000 May;57(5):370-5. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-0004.2000.570507.x.


This article examines the changing debate over gene patenting and the possible connection between patent law and the ethical and policy concerns associated with the use of genetic testing technologies (e.g. the premature implementation and inappropriate marketing of genetic tests). Arguably, patent law helps to form the market forces that lead to these concerns. It is suggested that existing safeguards fail to control these concerns because of, for example, a lack of provider knowledge and an absence of an adequate regulatory framework. While patent law can be associated with a number of ethical and policy concerns, the article also suggests that patent law may have a positive role in reducing them. Patent law provides policy makers and the public with a focal point - the patent holder - upon which to attach accountability for ethical and legal conduct. The article concludes by inviting policy makers to consider the ways in which patent law could be modified in order to optimize its constructive influence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / chemistry
  • Ethics*
  • Genetic Testing / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Patents as Topic / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Patient Advocacy / legislation & jurisprudence


  • DNA