The human subject as stakeholder in biotechnological patents
: An argument for recognising the contribution of the human tissue source in the patenting process

  • Tina Hart

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In society we take bodily autonomy as a given and do not necessarily question ownership of our bodies or the cells that reside within. Advances in research and the law’s protection of intellectual property, throws into question the notion of bodily autonomy.

Developments in biotechnology have had a positive impact on healthcare and the drugs that are available to treat a range of disease.

These developments have taken place without proper recognition being accorded to the human tissue sources from whom cells were isolated to develop and patent cell lines that have been used for the testing and development of a range of pharmaceutical products earning those involved substantial profits.

Application of the no-property rule which denies human beings ownership of their excised body parts and cells whilst allowing physicians and researchers ownership through the work and skill exception excludes the human subject from sharing in the fruits of innovation on which their materials are based.

Private property structures are ill equipped to deal with the individuals being left out of the economic benefits that accrue from biotechnological patents.
Date of Award23 Oct 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBerenice Golding (Main Supervisor) & George Ndi (Co-Supervisor)

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