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ㆍ 제목 The gene patent controversy on Twitter: a case study of Twitter users’ responses to the CHEO lawsuit against Long QT gene patents
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 Title

The gene patent controversy on Twitter: a case study of Twitter users’ responses to the CHEO lawsuit against Long QT gene patents

 

 Author

 

  • Li Du,
  • Kalina Kamenova and
  • Timothy Caulfield
  •  

     Journal

    BMC Medical Ethics (25 August 2015) 

     Url

     http://bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12910-015-0049-1

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Abstract

    Background

    The recent Canadian lawsuit on patent infringement, filed by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), has engendered a significant public debate on whether patenting genes should be legal in Canada. In part, this public debate has involved the use of social networking sites, such as Twitter. This case provides an opportunity to examine how Twitter was used in the context of this gene patent controversy.

    Methods

    We collected 310 English-language tweets that contained the keyword “gene patents” by using TOPSY.com and Twitter’s built-in search engine. A content analysis of the messages was conducted to establish the users’ perspectives on both CHEO’s court challenge and the broader controversy over the patenting of human DNA. More specifically, we analyzed the users’ demographics, geographic locations, and attitudes toward the CHEO position on gene patents and the patentability of human genes in principle.

    Results

    Our analysis has shown that messages tweeted by news media and health care organizations were re-tweeted most frequently in Twitter discussions regarding both the CHEO patent infringement lawsuit and gene patents in general. 34.8 % of tweets were supportive of CHEO, with 52.8 % of the supportive tweets suggesting that gene patents contravene patients’ rights to health care access. 17.6 % of the supportive tweets cited ethical and social concerns against gene patents. Nearly 40 % of tweets clearly expressed that human genes should not be patentable, and there were no tweets that presented perspectives favourable toward the patenting of human genes.

    Conclusion

    Access to healthcare and the use of genetic testing were the most important concerns raised by Twitter users in the context of the CHEO case. Our analysis of tweets reveals an expectation that the CHEO lawsuit will provide an opportunity to clear the confusion on gene patents by establishing a legal precedent on the patentability of human genes in Canada. In general, there were no tweets arguing in favour of gene patents. Given the emerging role of social media in framing the public dialogue on these issues, this sentiment could potentially have an impact on the nature and tone of the Canadian policy debate. 

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