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A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Selfish GeneThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny
Who Owns You? is a book principally about genes and patents. The author, David Koepsell, is an Assistant Professor at the Technology University of Delft, in The Netherlands; Koepsell is also a Senior Fellow at the 3TU Centre for Ethics and Technology, in The Netherlands. The writing of Koepsell is expertly critical and thoughtfully opinionated. The substantive matter comprising the text is notable for its esoteric nature. A thematic message powerfully pervading the text is that, in Koepsell's view, the area of gene patenting is rife with controversial concerns. As evaluated by Koepsell, the thicket of thorny issues implanted in the field of gene patenting has entwined roots of eclectically diverse origin, reaching to law, science, ethics and economics. The vast array of intellectually provocative questions raised directly, or indirectly, by the discerning commentary of Koepsell is a great strength of the book.
The substance of the text is supported by a bedrock of referenced research materials. Citations for referenced materials are presented in the "Notes" section, adjoining the text; some of the references, in the Notes, present briefly annotated comment.
Stylistically, as in substance, the book as written is tilted fairly steeply towards a professional reading audience.
The intellectual concoction brewed by Koepsell has a lot of law in it. As unraveled skillfully by Koepsell, the knot of law related strands tied to the question (posed by the book's title) of who owns you is a tree replete with many litigious branches. These branches, as identified by Koepsell, include: What does "ownership" mean? Should the law allow individual ownership of genes? Or, are genes part of a common heritage? Should genes be regarded legally as being part of the "commons"?
Genes, as explicated by Koepsell, are associated with an expansive range of legally complex issues relating to intellectual property and patents. Are genes, for instance, a form of "intellectual property"? Is there a compelling basis, in intellectual property law, to patent genes? If so, why are genes patentable? Should genes associated with particular diseases be patentable?
Koepsell additionally ponders the practical, real life import of gene patents. For example, as a practical matter, how might gene patents impact scientific innovation? In real life, do possible litigation concerns and royalty costs associated with gene patents possibly impede scientific research? What might be the real life effects of disallowing the patenting of genes? Are there legally viable alternatives to gene patenting?
In another legal vein, what privacy and autonomy concerns may be associated with genetic information?
A picture showing some of the science, of genes, is painted by the skilled brush, of Koepsell. The painting shows details pertinent to sundry, gene related concerns. How, for instance, do genes work? How do genes define an "individual"? What is the genetic meaning of "species"? With regard to genes, what is the relation between individuals and species? What is "personhood"? What is the connection between persons and genes?
Over the course of the text, Koepsell uses multiple writing instruments. One of them is for ethics. The part of the textual composition composed of ethics sheds questioning light on the area of genes and patents. For example, is intellectual property protection of genes ethically acceptable? Is it ethical to claim ownership of genes particularly by means of patents? Is there adequate ethical clarity, at this time, concerning gene patenting?
In a different ethics vein, how should genetic information ethically be used by employers and insurers?
Another of the writing instruments of Koepsell is used to pen discourse focusing on gene patenting in the context of economics. And again, nettlesome questions are raised by the discourse of Koepsell. These questions extend to the economic value and ramifications of patenting genes.
It may be opined critically that, because the gamut of issues addressed by Koepsell is interdisciplinary in nature, the reader may have been served even better if Koepsell had structured the book as an edited collection of papers culled from experts in disparate professional disciplines joined in some manner to the area of genes and patents.
An added criticism may be that Koepsell's intellectual camera has taken a still snapshot of the area of gene patenting at a particular moment in time, but the resolving of vexing questions linked to the patenting of genes is a movie in progress.
In quite instructive fashion, however, the intellectually enlightening flashlight of Koepsell beams considerably illumining light on many issues and intricacies connected with gene patents. And Koepsell's thoughtful pondering of unresolved complexities tethered to gene patenting may help foster further debate regarding this contention laden area.
The book's edifying substance is highly relevant to universities and corporations, importantly including insurance, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
The rich wealth of information mined by Koepsell's intellectual toil likewise should be of greatly appealing interest to many professionals, including: geneticists, biologists, biomedical scientists, intellectual property scholars, patent public interest and healthcare lawyers, judges, legislators, bioethicists, genetic counselors, and health policy makers.
© 2010 Leo Uzych
Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University. His area of special professional interest is healthcare.