Bioethics, biotechnology products and humans: Europe between the skilled Theseus and the Labyrinth-Minotaur's syndrome.

P. Frati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Following the approval on May 1998 of the European Union Common position no. 19/98 regarding the legal protection of biotechnological inventions, the debate on bioethical aspects of biotechnologies is increased. The European Union document clearly protects the patentability of inventions (that concerns more than a particular plant or animal variety or a single procedure if they are of industrial interest), but not the finding or discovery of that is in the nature, e.g. a gene. Some safeguards (the dignity and integrity of the person and of the human embryo, the plant diversity, etc.) and exclusions from patentability (plant and animal varieties, processes for the production of plants or animals, the human body at any stage of growth, cloning of human beings, modifications of germ line, use of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes as well as the inventions whose publication or exploitation would offend against public policy or morality, according to the Article 53a of the European Patenting Convention) are also indicated. Ethical issues discussed include the nature of human life and its protection, the safeguard of plant-animal biological diversity, the safeguard of human dignity and nature, whereas on several aspects (e. g. limits of the use of genetic material, xenotransplantation, etc.) the Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe has requested a discussion or a moratorium (April, 1999). In this case an evaluation on the basis of the ethical beneficial principles should be performed and society should decide whether to master technologies and emulate the positive action of the hero Theseus against the Labyrinth-Minotaur syndrome or to renounce or "misuse" technologies like Daedalus and Icarus, who met a tragic end.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalFORUM - Trends in Experimental and Clinical Medicine
Issue number3 Suppl 3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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