The US and European Experience
New Directions in Patent Law series
PART II: Interventions on human genetic material: Legal and bioethical issues
The development of biotechnology and the progress of genetic science, with the technical opportunities they create, have increased the power of human beings over themselves and over nature immensely. In this sense, problems arising from the application of new genetic techniques on man are particularly significant. The threat that may arise from an uncontrolled and destructive use of the increased technical power with regard to man and life provokes fundamental questions of an ethical nature. With respect to technical-mechanical errors, which allow for the reversibility of the effects, technical-genetic errors are unsettling, given that they are irreversible. All of these reasons have contributed to the rise of bioethics, through which it is possible to continue the analysis of biotechnological applications which affect the fundamental value of man, life, or better, the entire biosphere where human life takes place, with important possibilities for progress, but also with the risk of tragic errors or abuses. Bioethics consists, according to the so-called classic definition, in the systematic study of moral dimensions – including the moral vision, decisions, conduct and policy – of life sciences and the protection of health, through the use of a variety of ethical methods according to an interdisciplinary setting. This is part of general ethics and is characterized as applied ethics. Bio-law, then, indicates the part of legal reflection which deals with distinguishing that which is just and unjust in the context of new possibilities of manipulation (even if it is not therapeutic) of human life.
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