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Gene Patenting and Organ Donation Essay

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Updated: Sep 15th, 2020


Gene patenting is a controversial issue. Genes are the output of nature and many scientists argue that they should not be patented. However, monopolizing them is beneficial for the researchers that get inspired by discovering the new genes. In addition, it allows studying the human genome better. Nevertheless, the opponents of patenting say that it slows down the research on genetics. Apart from the scientist, the patients can suffer, too. Several articles on this topic have been analyzed to understand the pros and cons of gene patenting and organ donation, and what are their possible implications.


The tissue market operates in different ways. For instance, some companies cooperate with funeral homes. They contact those organizations that offer cheap cremation and get the tissues that they need. Some companies contact the families of the dying people and persuade them to make donations to their tissue bank. The main issue is that the company gets the profit while the family gets nothing. Kerry Howley touches upon an acute problem in her article “Who Owns Your Body Parts”. She questions the notion of the “reasonable value” and tries to give an explanation to it. As it is illegal to buy or sell the organs or parts of the human body, the companies do their best to find ways how to make their purchases legal.

In the example of Alistair Cooke and his daughter, it becomes evident that the tissue market has the other side. Alistair’s daughter was trying to find the inexpensive funeral home after her father died (Howley 300). She turned to an organization that cooperated with the tissue bank, which later persuaded her to let them take the bone samples of her father’s body. Despite the fact that the man had suffered from bone cancer, the pieces of his bones were removed and his medical record was falsified. It proves that the tissue market operations cannot be called transparent.

Nonetheless, it is clear that doctors need tissues to develop their techniques. If the doctors do not have samples, they will have to practice on the living people. In this regard, the author discusses the usage of the human remains (Howley 292).

The prices for human bodies are indeed high, but they can help many people around the world. However, it should be noted that, in fact, the human body costs nothing. At this point, it is unclear what the reasonable price for the tissues means. It is believed that the price depends on the market and its stakes primarily. Many organizations, including educational facilities, follow the illegal path and resell the bodies that were aimed at research. Profitability is the key to violating the law, and that is the reason for the lack of transparency in the tissue market (Howley 301).

Kristin Schleiter, the author of “Donors Have No Rights to Donated Tissue”, analyzed the legal aspects from a different angle. She considered the autonomy of medical decision-making. Also, she tried to stress the importance of the research that requires tissue donation. She claimed that there were multiple court cases for the human genes. These cases prove that the society questions whether the patients or their families who have decided to donate their tissues are aware of their rights (Schleiter 302).

The companies are not allowed to use the remains for commercial purposes without informing the patient. The patients must be informed in advance about the medical processes and procedures that would be held to their tissues and organs. It should be noted that while Howley described the lack of transparency in the tissue market, Schleiter tried to highlight that many patients are not well aware of their rights when deciding to donate their bodies.

The legalization of the tissue trade has always been a matter of concern to many people. Some people are against it, and they support the trade limitation and restriction while some claim that is the best way to resolve the problem of organ shortage. Arthur Caplan, the author of “The Trouble with Organ Trafficking”, is one of those who do not support the legalization. His main argument is that the trade disturbs the ethical principles, which is a concern of many people as well.

Sally Satel, the author of “Why We Need a Market for Human Organs”, on the contrary, states that the government will inspire more people to become donors through trade legalization and incentives. The international trade suffers from the lack of people willing to donate their organs; meanwhile, the demand for the transplants is constantly growing (Satel 311). This problem is heated by the black market operations and illegal removal of the organs (Caplan 311). The prices on the black market are high; subsequently, it is clear why people refuse to donate their organs for free.

It should be mentioned that legalization might have negative implications in terms of poor people. If the government offers compensation, people in despair or in a pressed situation may consider donating their organs though they need them themselves. The words that “they would be the only ones to put up their hands” support this concern in a vivid way (Satel 312). At this point, the anxiety about ethics grows (Caplan 308). It is rather likely that the individuals will have to choose between the money and their health, and such decisions can be made on impulse. Satel offers a good idea of offering services or benefits instead of money (Satel 312). It sounds reasonable as in this situation the individuals will be more likely to consider all the pros and cons rather than make hasty decisions that they will regret later.

Further, the ethical issue remains disputable. On the one hand, the voluntary donation implies that tissues and organs will be removed at free will. If cash drives the person’s decision, it undermines the principle of voluntariness. Caplan supports the same idea, saying that when there is no reward, the people will give their organs on their own volition. However, it means that the shortage of donor organs will remain the same, and many patients will continue suffering.

Despite the fact that the two authors have a different opinion, both of them agree that the legalization will inevitably have negative implications. The ethical principles and medical repute of the specialists will be questioned. Moreover, the legalization will enhance illegal trading, and its scale will increase drastically. The ethics and illegality will be closely connected in this situation. Needless to say that the government does not have enough resources to control and manage the legality of the trade.

The potential advantages and disadvantages of changing the current policy are also complex and disputable. Organ donations are closely related, and they affect the gene patenting. The researchers need materials and data and, if there are not enough constituents, the research will be ineffective or even impossible. Regarding the pros, the organizations that patent genes are more likely to conduct profound research on the genes due to the absence of rivalry.

In this sense, monopolizing enables smaller companies to make researches on the same level as the organizations that have fine financial support. Apart from that, it promotes research and development. The companies are more determined to conduct research if they are aware of the patent possibility. Moreover, a patent provides a heavier investment in research and innovation.

Nonetheless, patenting can hinder the research. If one company becomes a monopolist, the others will not be allowed to investigate the same genes. It implies that the possible discoveries will remain unfulfilled. Further, the monopolism facilitates higher secrecy among companies that, in its turn, hinders the research as well. Subsequently, if the research is not conducted effectively, it will lead to lower and slower medical results.


In conclusion, the issues of gene patenting and organ donation remain sharp. The world organ deficit is unresolved and promotes black trade. The ethical principles are undermined, and the legalization is considered the way to stabilize the situation. However, the current regulations and the lack of resources are the factors that influence international trade. The gene patenting has both advantages and disadvantages to it as well. The government should consider a modification to the existing laws and allocation of the resources to change the situation for the better, and it should pay due attention to the possible consequences.

Works Cited

Caplan, Arthur. “The Trouble with Organ Trafficking.” Writing in the Disciplines. Ed. Mary Lynch Kennedy and William J. Kennedy. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2012. 307-310. Print.

Howley, Kerry. “Who Owns Your Body Parts?” Writing in the Disciplines. Ed. Mary Lynch Kennedy and William J. Kennedy. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2012. 290-301. Print.

Satel, Sally. “Why We Need a Market for Human Organs.” Writing in the Disciplines. Ed. Mary Lynch Kennedy and William J. Kennedy. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2012. 310-314. Print.

Schleiter, Kristen. “Donors Have No Rights to Donated Tissue.” Writing in the Disciplines. Ed. Mary Lynch Kennedy and William Kennedy. Boston: Pearson, 2012. 302-306. Print.

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