Tilpath Valley Biodiversity Park spreads over an area of 69.56 ha on the Southern Ridge that is contiguous with Aravalli ranges of Haryana, in south Delhi, New Delhi India.

Proposed Amendments Would Make Foreign Investment in India’s Biological Resources Easier

By Aparajita Lath

Indian lawmakers are currently debating proposed amendments that would make it easier for foreign investors to research and develop products from native biological resources, such as plants.

India is one of the 17 internationally recognized mega biodiversity countries, and hosts four of the 35 globally recognized biodiversity hotspots.

Since countries have sovereign rights over their biological resources, Indian companies enjoy easier access to and use of these biological resources for various commercial applications, including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and biotechnology. Foreign companies and Indian companies with any foreign participation in share capital or management are strictly regulated.

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Hand holding smartphone with colorful app icons concept.

The Fourth Amendment and the Post-Roe Future of Privacy

By Katie Gu

An April 2021 data privacy bill sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has taken on new urgency in the post-Roe Digital Age.

The bipartisan bill, The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act, would close the current legal loophole through which the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Internal Revenue Service, have repeatedly purchased Americans’ personal and consumer information from data brokers.

In the wake of the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, this bill may play an important role in protecting reproductive health data against government overreach and new forms of surveillance technologies.

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Businessman crossing fingers behind his back.

Get Your Story Straight: Patent Office Cracks Down on Inconsistent Statements Made Before the FDA

By Matthew Chun

In an effort to “promote robust and reliable patents” and increase access to life-saving drugs, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently issued a Federal Register Notice clarifying the responsibilities of individuals involved in the patent application process.

In the July 29, 2022 notice, the USPTO set forth its views on the “duty of disclosure” and “duty of reasonable inquiry,” emphasizing the importance of consistency between statements made to the USPTO, the FDA, and other governmental agencies. While the goals of the Federal Register Notice are certainly noble, its disruptive practical effects leave much to be desired.

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Secretary Giorgia Meloni talks during a Fratelli D'italia party electoral meeting tour towards the 25 September vote.

Abortion Rights Under Siege in Italy Post-Dobbs

By Sarah Gabriele

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has had an impact and influence far beyond U.S. borders, with right-wing politicians in Italy campaigning on stricter abortion laws in the recent election of September 25, 2022. And now that the far right has reached the majority in both the Italian Parliament and Senate, access to abortion in Italy could soon face additional restrictions.

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Student fellows 2022-2023 cohort.

Petrie-Flom Welcomes 2022-2023 Student Fellows

(Clockwise from top left: Matt Chun, Sarah Gabriele, Katie Gu, Sanjay Reddy, Aparajita Lath)

We are excited to welcome a new group of Student Fellows to the Petrie-Flom Center family. These five students are a fantastic cohort of health law policy, biotechnology, and bioethics scholars who join us from across Harvard.

They each will undertake a year-long research project with mentorship from Center faculty and affiliates, and also will blog here at Bill of Health regularly. Keep an eye out for their bylines!

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Washington DC 09 20 2021. More than 600,000 white flags honor lives lost to COVID, on the National Mall. The art installation " In America: Remember" was created by Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg.

Introduction to the Symposium: Health Law and Policy in an Era of Mass Suffering

By Chloe Reichel and Benjamin A. Barsky

Last spring, the United States crossed the bleak and preventable 1,000,000-death mark for lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this symposium, our hope is to acknowledge — and mourn — this current era of mass suffering and death.

In particular, we want to reckon with the role of health law and policy in shaping, and at times catalyzing, the impact that the pandemic has had on our loved ones and communities.

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Abstract glitch with word SCAM on 100 Dollar bill. Concept art for Online scam.

Rethinking Senior Scams?

By James Toomey

Many people, including, it seems, most advocates for law reform, assume that older adults are uniquely vulnerable to scams, and indeed that senior scams are a unique social problem demanding a unique legal solution. But in “The Age of Fraud” (forthcoming in the Harvard Journal on Legislation, winter 2023), about which I’ve blogged here before, I reported the results of an empirical study suggesting that, in fact, younger adults were as much as three times more likely to engage with scammers during the first year of the COVID pandemic than older adults.

One possible implication of this finding — if indeed it is generalizable — which I discuss but don’t commit to in the paper, is that more people are more vulnerable to scams — and the polished tactics of psychological manipulation used by scammers — than has been generally appreciated. But if scams are not a bounded problem of those who are in some sense more psychologically vulnerable (as older adults are thought of in, at least, the popular imagination), we might want to rethink scams — what they are, how we fight them, and how we treat and think about their victims.

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An armed guard surveys the grounds from the railing of a prison watchtower.

Surveying US Correctional Facilities’ Pandemic Policies on Medication for Opioid Use Disorder

By Laura Hannon and Alex Willhouse 

An estimated 65 percent of the United States prison population has an active substance use disorder (SUD). Providing comprehensive substance use treatment to incarcerated individuals has been shown to reduce both drug use and crime upon release. Treatment is a critical intervention to prevent opioid overdose deaths, which the CDC estimates increased by 15.4 percent, from 70,029 in 2020 to approximately 80,816 in 2021. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are an important part of a comprehensive approach to addressing opioid use disorder (OUD).  

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Cell culture.

A New Theory for Gene Ownership

By James Toomey

The story of Henrietta Lacks is surely among the most famous in the history of bioethics, and its facts are well-known. Ms. Lacks sought treatment for cervical cancer. After conducting a biopsy on her tumor, her doctors learned that her cancer cells reproduced uniquely effectively. Without her knowledge or consent, her doctors derived from the cells the HeLa cell line — the world’s first immortal human cell line, worth billions and a driver of the biotechnology revolution. Lacks died in poverty.

No doubt her doctors’ behavior was not consistent with today’s standards of informed consent. But another question has remained more persistently challenging — did the doctors steal something from Lacks? Did she own the cells of her tumor? Or, perhaps more precisely, because few argue that HeLa is really the same thing as Lacks’s tumor cells, did she own the genetic information contained in her tumor?

In a new paper, Property’s Boundaries (forthcoming in the Virginia Law Review, March 2023), I develop a theory of what can and cannot be owned to answer these kinds of questions — pervasive in bioethics, from debates about ownership of organs to embryos. My conclusion, in short, is that because the essence of the idea of ownership is a relationship of absolute control, anything that can be the subject of human control can, in principle, be owned. But that which we cannot control we cannot own. From this perspective, Henrietta Lacks owned the cells of her tumor, and the tumor itself. But the genetic information within them — facts about the universe subject to no human control — simply cannot be owned, by her or anyone else.

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