Within the libertarian argument against the concept of “intellectual property”, it’s said that owning ideas means owning people. Well, here we have an example of just how absurd that quest for monopoly rents has gotten (all emphasis mine):
To date, about 20 percent of the human genome has been patented, including genes for Alzheimer’s, asthma, colon cancer, and perhaps most famously, breast cancer. This means pharmaceutical companies, scientists, and universities control what research can be done on those genes, and how much resulting therapies and diagnostic tests will cost. That is why, three years ago, a woman named Genae Girard couldn’t get a second opinion on a test showing she carried the breast cancer genes. Her doctor couldn’t help her, because Myriad Genetics holds the patent on the genes, and forbids other doctors or companies from testing for them.
This week, the ACLU, several breast cancer survivors, and professional groups representing more than 150,000 scientists, sued Myriad Genetics over their breast cancer gene patents. Those genes, mutated forms of BRCA1 and BRCA2, are responsible for most cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. They’re also very lucrative, because Myriad has created something of a monopoly. It charges $3,000 per test, which often isn’t covered by insurance. No one else can offer the test, and researchers can’t develop new or cheaper ones (or new therapies for that matter) unless they get permission from Myriad and pay a steep licensing fee. So women have no choice about who performs their tests, and they can’t seek those second opinions. [...]
[W]ith its lawsuit, the ACLU isn’t just fighting Myriad’s patent—it hopes to end the practice of gene patenting entirely on the grounds that it’s illegal, unconstitutional, and interfering with science.
Yes, you read that right. Thanks to the aid of the government, one company “owns” part of the human genome, and is using that “ownership” as excuse to extract tribute from any woman who dares to hold curiosity over the status of their own genetic code. Inability to pay for this could mean more women developing breast cancer — and, potentially, more women dying of it.
Keep this in mind during the pseudo argument about U.S. health care policy. Anyone who thinks what we currently have is a “free-market”, whether they think that means it’s good or bad, is grossly misled.
(cross-posted to FreedomDemocrats)