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Breast Cancer, Patenting Human Genes, and Your Civil Liberties

Selene Kaye,
Director, Liberty Division,
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October 22, 2009


On Tuesday evening, Joanna Rudnick joined the ACLU at Tribeca Cinemas to screen her award-winning documentary film, In the Family, and discuss the patenting of human genes, a practice that has serious implications for women like Joanna who have a genetic predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer. You can see photos from the event here.

In the film, Joanna tells her own story of learning that she has a mutation along one of the hereditary “breast cancer genes,” as well as the stories of other women and families facing the heart-wrenching choices that this information forces them to make.

The film opened up a lively conversation about what it means for companies to own patents on human genes, how this impacts women’s access to information about their own bodies, and how scientific freedom is limited by gene patents. The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in May of this year.

You can learn more about and watch In the Family online at

And please help spread the word about this issue!

  • Watch the video “Liberate the Breast Cancer Genes”
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  • Tell five friends to do the same

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