It is pertinent to note that ethics is a controversial topic. For instance, a range of ethical principles seems to contradict. Ethical principles are based on various backgrounds. Deontological and social justice, are some of the backgrounds that underpin ethical orientations. In this paper, the issue of patenting genes is considered in regards to various ethical concerns.
Social work requires practicality in its execution. The aim of the profession is to assist people to address the issues that they face. They achieve this by attempting to match resources with needs. Beneath the profession is a strong value system known as social justice. Social justice rests on the view that each person deserves access to equal social, political, and economic opportunities. Thus, the primary aim of the principle of social justice rests on extending opportunity to those people with the biggest or most urgent needs.
The deontological school of ethics is also useful. The school of thought offers explanations why given actions must be performed. Based on the approach, observing the expected moral duties is alone insufficient since it is vital that keeping the morals must conform to motivations. Consequently, morals and correct motivations should form the basis of actions. Nonetheless, correct motivation is also insufficient. Furthermore, accepting that an act is moral is similarly insufficient. Thus, the objective of deontology is absolute in the determination of duties and obligations. Skewed feelings have no role in the deontological perspective. As such, adherents of the school believe that relativism and subjectivism are unacceptable.
Specifically, the principle of beneficence and autonomy emerges. Whereas the autonomy principle requires that people should be allowed to make their health choices, the other tenet demands that physicians should do what they believe are the best for the interests of their patients. The companies in the case under review were right by patenting their patients’ genes, if the two principles are applied. This view is adopted based on the notion that the patients were consulted and that the companies believe that their actions are protective of the patient’s needs. This is supported by the teleological school of ethics, which posits that the consequences of an action should be the primary drive for behaviour. On the contrary, it becomes clear that nobody has a right to interfere with another person’s genetic composition for any reason when referring to the deontological or religious oriented-schools of ethics. In this case, the companies erred in patenting the genes of people. The principles of justice and non-malfeasance are also useful in assessing the case. Patenting the genes defies the expectations of justice. On the other hand, non-malfeasance requires that medical practitioners should ensure interests of their patients are protected.
It should be noted that detection of genes would help doctors to identify predispositions to cancer. Thus, doctors can take pre-emptive measures. However, patenting of genes implies that they become properties of the companies that are involved. Thus, parts of people’s genes are companies’ property. This is unethical and amoral. However, if such acts pave the way for the attainment of bigger benefits, then, it is plausible. If all those affected are informed and agree to the terms of patenting, then, no questions should be raised although issues of morality remain.
Granting of patents for sequences of the human genome is put into perspective based on the principles of distributive justice and beneficence. In practice, patenting of products or services implies reserving rights exclusively. Thus, it implies that whoever wants to use them, he or she must pay the associated costs. Distributive justice is viewed as being central with regard to human respect, human rights, and the common good. As an ethical principle, distributive justice centres on the idea that a society or a group owes its members. This is viewed in terms of individuals’ needs, responsibility, and contribution. Secondly, the issue of resource availability is considered. Thirdly, the aspect of societal responsibility in terms of the common good is critical. In regards to healthcare, focus is on ensuring easy access by each person. Thus, healthcare is seen as a basic human right. If healthcare is seen as a basic human right, the act of patenting genes excludes the society members from benefiting. Hence, the act does not observe the principle of distributive justice.
On the other hand, the principle of beneficence requires that each action should be geared towards the benefit of others. Thus, beneficent actions are those that are taken to prevent harm or improve lives. In this regard, if the act of patenting the genes leads to an improvement on the lives of people or reduces the suffering of those affected, then such acts are desirable. However, if patenting bars this expectation from happening, then benefice is undermined. Based on this realization, it is evident that patenting of genes would be in contradiction with the beneficence principle.
Based on the principle of social justice, patenting genes would only be accepted if it serves the needs of those individuals in need. Companies do patenting of genes. Consequently, the companies are the ones that are likely to benefit more from the act of patenting. However, patenting of such genes would help the companies conduct research, which could be critical in developing, cures for given diseases. In this regard, those individuals who need gene-patenting most are the sick. Hence patenting of genes would serve social justice if patenting were used to help the sick. However, in practice, the companies that patent the genes charge colossal sums, an aspect that implies that the poor may not access the services. Hence, a dilemma emerges.
Under the deontological school of thought, patenting genes is amoral. This is because each entity has a duty to do what is right. It is wrong to patent genes because nobody has a right to interfere with the normal functioning of a human body by extracting other parts from other people.
To solve the dilemma associated with ethics of patenting based on the social justice principle, striking a balance between the needs of the patenting companies and patients is required. In this case, the costs attributable to extending treatment to patients should be regulated to ensure that each person could afford. A solution to the patenting problem based on the deontological school would be to cease the exercise completely.