Patents, Intellectual Property and Saving Human Lives

A Kitah lesson on Modern Medical Ethics

The United States government recently announced that it would support a patent waiver for the COVID vaccine that would allow other companies from countries around the world to quickly produce badly-needed vaccines for the global population. This raises the thorny ethical issue of patents and the right to keep information secret, when that information can save human lives.
A recent article in the Israeli Mekor Rishon newspaper by David Kurzweill addressed this issue in light of a fascinating Talmudic story about the sage Rabbi Yochanan, who used a questionable tactic in order to secure critical medical knowledge.
This story raises questions not only about medical ethics, but also about how we relate to stories about questionable behavior by our rabbis, leaders and teachers.

You can find the source sheets here if you’d like to print them out for your students.

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