Friday, December 23, 2011

The Pirate Party Empowers Patients

An editorial in the Christmas issue of BMJ maintains that the three planks of the Swedish Pirate Party -- reform of copyright law, respect for right to privacy, and the abolition of patents -- are potentially empowering for patients (Ingdahl, 2011). The Pirate Party was originally started on January 1, 2006 and gained notoriety when file sharing host The Pirate Bay was raided by Swedish police.

Science journalist Waldemar Ingdahl explains the implications of Pirate policy for both doctors and patients:
The Pirate Party is critical of the copyrighting of scientific articles and anything else that reduces their accessibility because it believes that knowledge has intrinsic value. The reform of copyright law could dramatically speed up the rate of discovery in many disciplines and change the scientific process radically. Similarly, researchers will need to rise above their petty rivalries and be prepared to share their data with others. The internet provides tools to facilitate this.

Many large organisations that fund or host research are now mandating that the results of this research be made ”open access,” and many journals have adopted revenue models where the authors (or their employers) pay to enable this to happen. Open access journals such as PLoS Biology and PLoS Genetics are already among the most prestigious in their field. Once the contents of scientific monographs have also been made available, the Pirate Party dream that publicly funded science should be open science will have become a reality.

As medical knowledge becomes increasingly available over the internet, the role of doctors will change. Pirates have discussed empowering patients by transferring the control of medical records to patients themselves. This would make the doctor more of the patient’s partner and less of a figure of authority. Collecting all relevant medical data in a single file controlled by the patient would increase security and privacy. With medical research becoming more reliant on gathering large datasets on the entire population, the need to protect patients’ privacy becomes crucial. Pirate parties are suspicious of giving insurance companies access to medical data.

The Swedish and German parties have called for the abolition of drug patents.2 3 Here’s how. Thanks to universal health insurance, government subsidies account for most of the income of drug companies in Europe. Only 15% of this income actually goes into research, with most of the remainder being spent on marketing. Instead, governments should allocate 20% of today’s drugs bill directly to the universities for research. More funds should produce more research findings. Without the need for drug companies to undertake the research themselves, there would be no need for medical patents to protect their investment. The price of drugs would drop if they were manufactured in a competitive market, rather than by patent protected monopolies. People in developing countries would also benefit because their governments wouldn’t be forced to buy expensive patent drugs.

Argh, matey! Yo ho ho and a Merry Christmas to you.

Pirate Santa, by Neill Cameron


Ingdahl W (2011). Three planks of the Pirate Party’s platform that matter to doctors. BMJ 2011;343:d8101.

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At March 26, 2012 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that this article is locked is somewhat ironic.


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