Euthanasia for Excellencernby Allan CarlsonrnOn April 10 of last year, the European Patent Office quietlyrnawarded a patent to Michigan State University (MSU)rnfor “euthanasia solutions which use the anesthetic gammahydroxy-rnbutramide (embutramide) as a basis for formulatingrnthe composition.” On the surface, the event was not out of thernordinary. In the abstract of the public document, the newrncompound appeared to be for application among the “lowerrnmammals,” meaning for veterinary needs. In this regard, thernnew drug was an improvement. Unlike the existing product,rnknown as T-61, the MSU compound did not contain a barbiturate,rnmaking it easier to store and transport. It also avoidedrncommon side effects, such as “a stiffening of the forelimbs” andrnan overstimulation of the brain.rnSo the matter might have lain, had not a German patent attorneyrnaffiliated with the conservative group Mut Zur Ethikrn(“Courage to Take a Moral Stance”) come across the provisionalrnaward of patent during a routine review of public documents.rnHe secured background materials, including a March 1, 1994,rnresponse from the Examining Division of the European PatentrnOffice. In raising challenges to MSU’s initial application, it includedrnthis passage: “The Examining Division notices that thernsubject matter of the claims is not limited to the provision ofrneuthanasia in lower mammals. The attention of the Applicantrnis drawn to the fact that humans are a mammalian species, andrnthat as a result of the wording of the claims the Applicant isrnseeking protection for an agent for committing euthanasia onrnAllan Carlson is the publisher of Chronicles and the presidentrnof The Rockford Institute.rnhumans as well.” And noted: “Active euthanasia is a felony underrnthe law of manv countries, and the provision of an agent forrnproviding euthanasia in humans probably will have a similar positionrnunder those laws.” The European examiners asked thernAmerican university to give “an explicit statement” on this, “orrnto limit the claims of the present application.”rnGiven this opportunit’, MSU responded, through a Europeanrnlaw firm, on July 1, 1994; “The compositions of the presentrninvention are intended for use in lower animals. There is nornintent to violate the laws of any country in reference to use inrnhumans. Nevertheless, if it should ever become legal to use therncompositions in human beings, the patent claims should encompassrnthe use of the compositions of the present invention for thisrnpurpose.” (Emphasis added.)rnMSU (whose motto is “Institutional Diversity: Excellence inrnAction”) argued that existing patent guidelines allowed that “arnproduct could still be manufactured under a European patentrnfor export to states in which its use is not prohibited.” Elsewherernin the document, the university challenged excessivernconcern over the “agonal breathing” to be found in some researchrncases. MSU reasoned that “it is probably a last-ditch orrnfinal reflex response in lower and higher animals, including humans,rnto breathe following very low oxygen levels in respiratoryrncenter of brain and thorax.”rnIn addition, the patent cited 12 relevant journal references,rnfour of which directly focused on human use. Their titles includedrn”Suicide by ingestion of T-61,” “Veterinary euthanasiarndrugs as suicide agents,” and “Euthanasia and the right to die:rnHolland and the United States face the dilemma.” It seemsrn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn