Amendment Would Prohibit Patents on Human Beings

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 22, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Amendment Would Prohibit Patents on Human Beings

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 22, 2003

Washington, DC( — Thanks to an amendment sponsored by pro-life Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), scientists and research universities would be prohibited from obtaining a patent on a human being.

The amendment says, "None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this act may be used to issue patents on claims directed to or encompassing a human organism."

Weldon, a doctor by profession, successfully added the amendment to the Commerce Justice State Appropriations bill (HR 2799). The amendment was passed Tuesday by voice vote and is now a part of the bill.

John Cusey of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said the amendment is a "big development because it is the first time the House of Representatives has taken the position that humans should not be patented."

"Some who research with human organisms want to patent human beings. The most recent example is the horrific story of scientists creating male-female hybrid human embryos and then wanting to patent them."

The U.S. Patent Office currently will not approve patents for human beings, but Cusey said it was important to codify that policy into law. Some say the amendment was needed because patents have been granted to researchers using animal cloning.

Paige Cunningham, chairman of the board of Americans United for Life, says the Patent Office granted a patent for animal cloning in 2001 to the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA).

Cunningham said the patent "was written so broadly that it appears to include human cloning and products of cloning in its protection."

"Theoretically, the patent could extend to include embryos, fetuses, and children resulting from using the particular patented cloning method," Cunningham said.

After receiving the patent, ICTA wrote that it’s scientists "now have rights over the product, i.e., any cloned human embryo or person born under the process."

President Bush agrees that the patenting of human beings turns people into property.

"Life is a creation, not a commodity," Bush said in an April 2002 speech on human cloning. "Our children are gifts to be loved and protected, not products to be designed and manufactured."