Monday, July 1, 2013

Tissue samples - universal health care

I just read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. What a wonderful book about the woman whose cells were the first to reproduce robustly outside the body. The afterward will now need updating after the ASSOCIATION FOR MOLECULAR PATHOLOGY ET AL. 
v. MYRIAD GENETICS, INC., ET AL Supreme court case. You can read about it here. Although the Court held that a company cannot patent human DNA and privacy laws will prevent releasing names of patients whose genetic material is used, doctors and hospitals can still keep and use materials excised from human beings. If new drugs and treatments are made from that mole the doctor cut off your body ... well, you'll likely never know nor will the profits be shared with you. Your cells become, in essence, part of the scientific commons, shared for the good of scientific research.
Well, what are you going to do when you need medical care? Deny the treatment to prevent your cells from being used?
I think it makes no sense that parts and pieces of us become the property of researchers if we can't benefit in some direct way - like having our tax dollars and drug profits be used to provide universal health care. Henrietta Lacks' cells (HeLa) have made billions of dollars for corporations, but her descendents couldn't afford to pay for health care.

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