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A doctor has applied for a patent on new technology involving the use of advanced computers to create a new type of organism. One of the goals of his research is to genetically alter these organisms for use in human organ growth and transplant. The doctor says that if he is not granted a patent, he intends to continue his research, either in the United States or overseas.
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- Should this activity be a violation of the law, a deviant act, or none of the above?
The Doctor's plan does not violate any primary laws in any instance. Biotechnology is one of the most controversial science fields in the entire universe. The fundamental protection of sensitive human systems is entirely a responsibility of the formulated laws and regulations, which are primarily entrenched in the constitutional framework. Genetically modified organisms are usually produced through recombinant DNA technology, which are essentially non-drug formulas. The practice involves designing organisms such as enzymes, plants and bio-pesticides for use in the agricultural field, forestry, environmental remediation and industrial applications (Arnold, 2002).
The aspect of commercialization of these products has been partially tackled in various conferences. There still exists a fundamental gap in the institutionalization of some of the proposed initiatives into national constitutional arrangements. For instance, in the United States there exist no comprehensive provisions on biotechnology laws that propose a standard process or risk management plan for evaluating the risks of technological application to human systems (Arnold, 2002). This role has primarily been left to certain bodies mandated to guide the subsequent application of these technologies. In the United States context, some of these bodies include the US Department of Agriculture/UDSA, the US Environmental Protection Agency/EPA and the Food and Drugs Administration/FDA (Arnold, 2002).
Therefore, in order for the activity to be a violation of the law, then there needs to be certain instrumental provisions, which serve to make the activity a function of the law. The doctor therefore holds fundamental rights to pursue his innovations since he is only contributing to the pool of information needed in answering emerging medical problems. "Ethical issues play a major role in the formulation of biotechnology policy to create living organisms, and the need for privacy in genetic testing" (Arnold, 2002). This implies that the doctor's act of insisting that he intends to relocate if not granted a patent is justified in this setting. Ethically, granting the doctor patenting rights for living organism appears wrong considering the fact the existing laws do not explicitly describe the limits of patenting. If there is exists no explicit provisions in the law then the doctor has the right to demand for a patent on the basis of it being an innovation or new technology.
- Is this research an abuse of technology?
The use of computer to produce living forms does not abuse technology in any way. The real essence of technology demands the continuous progression towards understanding complex systems in order to accrue potential benefits from them. "It cannot be argued that this is simply another, perhaps easier way to do what we have been doing for a long time with less direct methods. For the first time, there is now available a method which allows us to cross very large evolutionary barriers and move genes between organisms which have never had genetic contact" (Fabian & Miller, 2004). This statement approves the need to consistently develop better forms of technology that will lead to better outcomes in understanding human systems thereby solving emerging health concerns.
The doctor's move is actually a bold move towards the emancipation of better health outcomes. For instance, in Britain the Ashby Committee was formed in 1975 to investigate the possible effects of genetic alterations, which led to recommendations that such manipulation techniques should be carried out within confinements of rigorous control in order to protect both the researchers and test organisms (Fabian & Miller, 2004). The doctor's move therefore falls within the limits of safe technological practices since there are no technological restrictions on the matter as long as he or she guarantees safety practices.
- If this kind of activity is a violation of the law or should be, how can it be stopped, especially if the doctor goes overseas?
If by any chance the verdict leads to the conclusion that this is a violation of the law then there still is chance of stopping him or her from proceeding with the prospects. Success is stopping him is guaranteed provided there is valid evidence showing that there has been any improper use of technology, safety principles have been violated, and the act appears to be a move towards enhancing personal motives as opposed to collective benefits (Finch & Anna, 2004). The doctor may however succeed going overseas and go ahead with his practice. There are international regulations, which postulate requirements for organisms and species transfer or translocation.
Most of the provisions available allow the use of such species purely for genuine research purposes as seen in the European Union (Finch & Anna, 2004). This has led to far reaching effects in as far as technology transfer is concerned. For instance, Canada has regulations on the manner in which certain novel organisms apart from those from genetic modifications, while the federal government framework aptly redefines biotechnology as, "the application of science and engineering in the direct or indirect use of living organisms or parts or products of living organisms in their natural of modified forms" (Fabian & Miller, 2004). Such provisions potentially allow for the possible termination of the doctor's activities in the event he succeeds to escape the local country laws.