Limiting and facilitating access to innovations in medicine and agriculture: a brief exposition of the ethical arguments

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Abstract
Taking people’s longevity as a measure of good life, humankind can proudly say that the average person is living a much longer life than ever before. The AIDS epidemic has however for the first time in decades stalled and in some cases even reverted this trend in a number of countries. Climate change is increasingly becoming a major challenge for food security and we can anticipate that hunger caused by crop damages will become much more common. -/- Since many of the challenges humanity faced in the past were overcome by inventive solutions coming from the life sciences, we are compelled to reconsider how we incentivize science and technology development so that those in need can benefit more broadly from scientific research. There is a huge portion of the world population that is in urgent need for medicines to combat diseases that are currently neglected by the scientific community and could immensely benefit from agricultural research that specifically targets their environmental conditions. At the same time efforts have to be made to make the fruits of current and future research more widely accessible. These changes would have to be backed by a range of moral arguments to attract people with diverging notions of global justice. This article explores the main ethical theories used to demand a greater share in the benefits from scientific progress for the poor. Since life sciences bring about a number of special concerns, a short list of conflictive issues is also offered.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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2014-04-04

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