The Daily Grind Video


Ever since Angelina Jolie wrote her op-ed piece in the New York Times about her double mastectomy on Monday, the world has been buzzing about how “heroic” and “courageous” she was for doing so.  And, although I agree that what she did was audacious and noble, her mastectomy shouldn’t have been the focus of the storyline.  What failed to trend on the reports was that Myriad Genetics, the company that owns an exclusive patent on the $3,000 procedure, is the only company that is allowed to provide the test, and with that, basically has a monopoly on the price tag.  Furthermore, they have the right to prevent anyone from studying, testing, or even looking at the gene. So, if you want a second opinion on whether to remove your breasts or not, just ask Myriad to repeat their answer, cause you literally can’t go elsewhere.   

The government is granting private corporations a right to own your genes -4,000 of them already to be exact. Somebody owns the genes created in your mother’s womb!  The Supreme Court is currently deliberating a lawsuit brought on by the ACLU against Myriad regarding the legalities of patenting human genes. 

“I hope it helps you to know that you have options,” says Jolie.  Yeah, except that most women don’t. Besides the hefty price tag, and patent issues, the criteria for most health insurance providers to consider you eligible for coverage, is completely subjective. That is, IF you have health insurance.  An estimated 18.7 million women between the ages of 19-64 were uninsured in 2010, most of which were African-American and Hispanic.  Another 16.7 million had health insurance, but their out-of-pocket costs were so high that effectively they were underinsured. No is going to the doctor when if they can’t afford their co-pay.   

Thanks to Obama’s Affordable Care Act, BRCA1 and 2 are suppose to be covered by your healthcare provider since it is a preventative measure to breast cancer.  But don’t exhale yet; you think insurance providers didn’t cover their own asses when the bill was being drawn up.  If you were already covered under a health insurance policy as of March 23, 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, then you don’t get any of the benefits of the law.  It is called a Grandfather Clause, a name that once referred to voting laws implemented in the South during the days of Jim Crowe when blacks couldn’t vote unless their enslaved grandfathers did. A catch-22.  This grandfather clause basically states that your policy does not have to comply with many of the new requirements and a plan will remain grandfathered for as long as the plan’s benefit design does not change.  

Patenting human genes is the new big cash cow for the medical industry, because the high cost of prescription drugs and bleeding you dry after a medical emergency apparently isn’t enough anymore.  

“I am writing about this now because I hope other women can benefit from my experience,” said Jolie. Perhaps Jolie should have taken advantage of the platform The New York Times gave her and advocated against big biotech companies patenting nature and holding a monopoly on their health so that women can benefit from her experience.  

The great Jonas Salk who developed the polio vaccine in 1955, when asked in an interview by Edward Murrow “Who owns this patent?” Salk replied “No one. Could you patent the sun?”  

Danielle DeAbreu


Danielle DeAbreu, our summer intern and contributing political blogger, is a student at William Paterson University studying Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Political Science. “Do not be afraid to offend your oppressor” -Dr. John Carlos…and I shall not Dr. Carlos. Follow me on Twitter @DaniDeAbreu13