Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Philosophy, PhD


School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Darrell Moore

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Patricia Easton

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Shelley L. Hurt

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2020 Robert Flores


Ethics, Genetics, Patents

Subject Categories



Genes are functional cell segments of DNA within an organism, as well as basic physical units of biological inheritance, which have consequences for human dignity and public interest. Genes and genetic material (DNA strands of nucleotides, genetically altered plants and animals e.g., see Appendix B) are patentable. In the US and around the globe, governments grant genetic patents for new, non-obvious, and useful gene inventions. A wide range of interest groups such as religious leaders, scientists, biotech pharmaceuticals, medical practitioners, health care providers, venture capitalists, medical patients and persons have interests in defining what is subject to patents. Yet, it is at least questionable that genetic inventions, and the ownership of discoveries of gene mutations leading to possible diseases, should be subject to influence by interest groups. Although some genes (cDNA) are currently legally patentable, the question in this examination is whether gene patents should be legally and morally justified. In this work I examine whether gene patents should legally and morally be justified, given the principles of biomedical ethics such as human Beneficence /Autonomy and Justice. I argue that gene patenting is not justifiable, and I consider what can be done to create a system that delivers access to genetic information in the current genetic Intellectual Patent system. This interdisciplinary work is more complex than whether bio-science researchers and corporate entities should hold gene patents, or differentiating the legal question of whether genes are an invention or a discovery in the human genome. Mere responses to these questions would not ultimately solve the genetic justice problem. The justification for genetic appropriation is more complexity, since it is grounded in axiological claims about human dignity and public interest set in an ever changing biomedical/biogenetic technology. To address this complexity, I will draw upon the ideas of “the capability approach” to genetic justice found in the work of Nussbaum and Sen. This work is an interdisciplinary examination of the proper appropriation of natural genetic material and its impact on human dignity. It is argued that genetic material and information should be accessible to all, via heath care, for example. We must look to new ways to achieve genetic justice that promote human flourishing as a public good.



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