Introduction Patents are a contract made between an inventor and the government that gives the applicant the right to prevent the manufacture, use and sale of the invention by others for a limited period of time. Although patents promote further technological developments, researchers are concerned that patenting DNA does more harm than good.
Objective Upon completion of the Human Genome Project a new horizon has opened in the area of biomedicine as well as in the interests of pharmaceutical companies. Patenting of genes and analysis of their mutations will be the subject of scientific discussion. In this study we try to assess the interests of pediatricians in this subject.
Method A simple questionnaire with regard to the significance of patenting and the knowledge of whether it has been applied to DNA sequences was distributed to 140 clinical pediatricians (mean age 38 years old).
Results 82% of doctors are accustomed with the meaning of patenting but they don’t know the specific requirements. 65% have been informed by the daily press about “who owns what in our body”. Only 3% know that some patent cases resulted in worldwide controversies (the Neem tree, John Moore’s case, Guayami case). Fewer (2%) know that the monopoly lasts 20 years. An interesting point is that younger colleagues (24–30 years old) are better informed on the subject. 98% of pediatricians express concerns about the ethical aspects of gene patenting.
Conclusions We discovered satisfactory curiosity from pediatricians but an inadequate level of knowledge on this crucial scientific matter.