Jewish Guinea Pigs
What if a gene patent is bad for the Jews?
There are some strong arguments for revoking Myriad's patent. One is that a component of the human body—life itself—cannot and should not be commodified. Another is the sound technical argument that testing for mutations by doing full sequencing rather than comparing particular strains is more accurate, which means the use of Myriad's patented test impedes both research and treatment. But if the EPO or another agency revoked Myriad's patent because it was deemed bad for the Jews, that would set a silly and dangerous precedent. The unfair-advantage-for-the-Jews claim comes fast on the heels of the anti-Semitism claim. Every advance in genetic medicine will benefit a particular ethnic group. It's in the genes.
Masha Gessen is the author of The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, and several previous books. She has contributed to Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and Slate, among many other publications, and has served as editor of several magazines. She lives in Moscow.