Thursday, January 10, 2008

Patents and Fritz Haber in Law & Order on 9 Jan 08

The Law & Order episode "Misbegotten" (9 Jan 08) included a sub-theme on medical diagnostic test patents.

One Dr. Hoffman, formerly of Hudson University where he conducted controversial research on a "gay gene", turns up at a private company Gentech, manifestly conducting uncontroversial antigen research. BUT it turns out Hoffman got a patent for genetic screening of the gay gene, and Hoffman really hadn't stopped doing research. Further, he found the gene in a fetus of a pregnant woman (who worked as a security guard in his New York City building).

The woman was the victim in the episode, being severely damaged in a bomb blast from a package intended for Hoffman. The bomb was created by her (gay) brother-in-law. [IPBiz notes that this plot twist of "bomb damaging wrong victim" appeared in the 1995 Law&Order episode "Big Bang," wherein a disgruntled former grad student sent a bomb to his former advisor, but ended up killing the advisor's (separated) wife. A common theme is that, in each episode, the bomb was intended for an academic. In 1995, the advisor had stolen his former graduate student's ideas. In 2008, the professor/patentee also appeared in a bad light, having lied to the woman about the reason for the test (cancer, rather than genetic screening for the gay gene.)

The episode was more about the ethical issues surrounding "what to do" with knowledge of the gay gene. The duplicity of Hoffman in keeping secret his motives for leaving Hudson University and exploiting the patent, were largely untouched.
Unlike George Bernard Shaw's Undershaft, who openly discussed the moral issues of selling guns (and that he merely made the guns), Hoffman professes to create knowledge for people but still seems a little uncomfortable with the implications of this knowledge.

Of the ethical theme, the name of Fritz Haber, 1918 Nobel Laureate, and researcher in the area of poisonous gases, came up.
McCoy pointed out that Haber's wife, also a chemist, committed suicide (during World War I) because of Haber's activities.

From wikipedia on Fritz Haber:

Haber was a German chemist, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his development of synthetic ammonia, important for fertilisers and explosives. He is also credited as the "father of chemical warfare" for his work developing and deploying chlorine and other poison gases during World War I.

His wife, Clara Immerwahr, a graduated chemist, opposed his work on poison gas and committed suicide with his service weapon in their garden, possibly in response to his having personally overseen the first successful use of chlorine at the Second Battle of Ypres on April 22, 1915.

[IPBiz notes that the Nobel committee gave Haber the prize in full knowledge of his activities in the poison gas area.]

***Separately, on the "gay gene", from>

In this age, in this country, public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.
-Abraham Lincoln

On July 15, 1993, National Public Radio (NPR) made a dramatic announcement on stations across the country: Was a team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health on the trail of a gene that causes homosexuality? Their report would be published the next day in Science, one of the two most prestigious scientific research journals in the world.[D. H. Hamer et al, "A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X-chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation," Science (1993), 261, no. 5119, pp. 321-27.]

The discussion that followed explained for the listening public the implications of these findings for social attitudes toward homosexuality and for public policy concerning it. Science was on the verge of proving what many had long argued: that homosexuality is innate, genetic and therefore unchangeable-a normal and commonplace variant of human nature. In the light of these findings, surely only the bigoted or ignorant could condemn it in any way.

**also citing: "Research Points Toward a Gay Gene," Wall Street Journal, 16 July 1993.


Post a Comment

<< Home