21.1 Chapter 20 examined the impact of gene patents on the provision of healthcare, and concluded that it has not been established that gene patents have had any significant adverse impact, to date, on healthcare provision in Australia. However, there is clear potential for the exclusive licensing of patents relating to medical genetic testing to have adverse consequences for the cost of testing, access to testing, the quality of testing, and the development of new or improved testing techniques in the future.

21.2 Other chapters in this Report make recommendations intended to help address these and other possible adverse effects of gene patents on healthcare provision—as well as effects on the conduct of research and its subsequent commercialisation. This chapter considers the possible introduction of a medical treatment defence—a reform option directed specifically to healthcare provision.

21.3 The chapter describes the existing law in Australia and other jurisdictions in relation to patents and medical treatment. It also examines reforms that have been proposed overseas and the issues involved in framing any new medical treatment defence. For the reasons set out in this chapter, the ALRC has concluded that a new medical treatment defence should not be introduced in Australia.