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

Du L, Kamenova K, Caulfield T - BMC Med Ethics (2015)

Bottom Line: 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 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.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Health Law Institute, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta, Room 464, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2H5, Canada. ldu3@ualberta.ca.

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.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Number of tweets from 3 November, 2014 to 3 December, 2014
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Fig1: Number of tweets from 3 November, 2014 to 3 December, 2014

Mentions: Twitter users reacted quickly to the news that the CHEO had launched a legal action over gene patents. The peak (n = 126) occurred on 3 November 2014, the first day that the hospital announced the gene patent lawsuit. The number of tweets decreased (n = 92) on 4 November 2014, and then dropped to less than seven tweets daily from November 7 to 24 (See Fig. 1). In terms of the geographic origin of the tweets, most senders (n = 166) were from Canada, with a comparatively small number of tweets (n = 29) posted by Twitter users in the United States. Over 60 % of the tweets (n = 191) were sent out by individuals. Members of the general public (i.e., Twitter users that did not specify their occupations or affiliations) were the majority, making up 32.9 % of the message senders (n = 102), whereas academics accounted for 15.8 % (n = 49) of the senders. For tweets that were sent by organizations, the following distribution was observed: advocacy and non-profit groups, 33.6 % (n = 40); news media, 31.9 % (n = 38); and health institutions, 17.6 % (n = 21) (Table 1).Fig. 1


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

Du L, Kamenova K, Caulfield T - BMC Med Ethics (2015)

Number of tweets from 3 November, 2014 to 3 December, 2014
© Copyright Policy - OpenAccess
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4548905&req=5

Fig1: Number of tweets from 3 November, 2014 to 3 December, 2014
Mentions: Twitter users reacted quickly to the news that the CHEO had launched a legal action over gene patents. The peak (n = 126) occurred on 3 November 2014, the first day that the hospital announced the gene patent lawsuit. The number of tweets decreased (n = 92) on 4 November 2014, and then dropped to less than seven tweets daily from November 7 to 24 (See Fig. 1). In terms of the geographic origin of the tweets, most senders (n = 166) were from Canada, with a comparatively small number of tweets (n = 29) posted by Twitter users in the United States. Over 60 % of the tweets (n = 191) were sent out by individuals. Members of the general public (i.e., Twitter users that did not specify their occupations or affiliations) were the majority, making up 32.9 % of the message senders (n = 102), whereas academics accounted for 15.8 % (n = 49) of the senders. For tweets that were sent by organizations, the following distribution was observed: advocacy and non-profit groups, 33.6 % (n = 40); news media, 31.9 % (n = 38); and health institutions, 17.6 % (n = 21) (Table 1).Fig. 1

Bottom Line: 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 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.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Health Law Institute, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta, Room 464, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2H5, Canada. ldu3@ualberta.ca.

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.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus