SECOND PLACE: Sophia Klonis Casanova, Portugal
THIRD PLACE: Hiewon Ahn, South Africa
ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER: Matheus Francisco Luquini de Souza, Brazil
FIRST PLACEPick your favorite song lyric or quote and write about it.

“You've been locked in there forever and they just can't say goodbye” – Cigarettes After Sex, Apocalypse
This is my favorite position: my back soaked by the shallow water over the black glazed floor, suspended in perfect equilibrium with the silent background. If I close my eyes hard enough, I can see the waves she and I used to make in the lake as Mom and Dad laughed.
Seconds into my daydream, my thoughts are abruptly squashed. As I open my eyes to see who had ruined my escape this time, I see the bouncing head of flaming hair: George. Instead of hopelessly trying to salvage what was left of my oasis, I keep staring at the 6-year-old boy. I remember how his arrival had filled the usually dim and quiet room with the lively energy we had long forgotten. We couldn't look into his eyes at first; in his schoolboy uniform, he waltzed in with such ease you would have thought he was coming back home. Pity hung in the air as we all mourned the loss of the skipping child. Yet now - perhaps somewhat selfishly - I cannot help but feel grateful that he is here.
You see, before him, no one laughed in this place. Hell, people barely spoke. We spent most of our days smoking cigarettes and dragging our feet along the floor carpeted with water. It's funny how we smoke; maybe it's because we pathetically hope that we still have some sense of agency over our state, or perhaps it's simply because cigarette packs around here never seem to finish. In reality, we all know we are mere silhouettes waiting for the lights to turn on.
Mary, our designated grandma, gives everyone a rundown of what this non-existent ecosystem is when we first come through the Gates, “Limbo is a temporary home. We are all here because someone out there cannot accept we are gone.”
To go into the Afterlife, you must not have anything in the living world holding you back. Our Keepers, as we call them here, have to go through the five stages of grief to enable us to move on. I am new here; my mysterious Keeper is still in their denial stage. Limbo is a vehicle rather than the problem: some will be stuck here forever as their Keepers die with the keys, while others will only pause for a pitstop.
I finally get up and light a cigarette.
“Don't be sad now, Eva. If anything, the denial phase is the best; you don't actually have to face their emotions.”
I inhale the smoke, filling my lungs with air. “It's just... I want to know who could be thinking about me, Mary.”
We stand there in silence, staring at the ginger boy.
Suddenly, a white beacon appears behind the child. I can faintly pick out a familiar face within the blinding light. I barely hear George announce, “Eva, it's for you.”
Is this it?
“Mommy, why are you here?”
Waves crash into my ankles as my feet pick up speed. My eyes have stopped registering the bright light: all I see is her face. My arms swing like propellers, ready to send me crashing into her. Every fiber of my being alive with adrenaline, we collide in a loud bang.
For a few seconds there, I thought I passed onto the Afterlife. But as I open my eyes, I am greeted with a more than familiar darkness. The room feels the same, so does the lukewarm water on the ground, yet this room is not limitless like the original chamber. In fact, it's small. All the walls are colored a deep shade of meat except for one that looks like a white movie screen. As the screen jumps to life, it dawns on me. I know what this room is.
“Tell me, Mary, what is the Cinema like?”
“Well, it's not as exciting as you think, Eva. But I admit, I always enjoy the closeness of the walls. When I sit there, it's the one time I can almost feel her, and I think she can feel me too,” she pauses. Her eyes momentarily flash with brightness as she remembers her daughter. Gazing blankly, she continues, “There is this one wall that is almost like a window. It lets you see the world through your Keeper's eyes.”
The Cinema, as it's known here, is the second room of the Limbo – it only reveals itself when your Keeper moves on from the denial phase. Some people never go in there: I remember how George didn't even look up from his game when his door opened. Meanwhile, some practically live there. The Cinema is our only connection to the living world.
The image of Dad on the screen lights up the room. His eyes appeared to be bloodshot, and not because we stayed up all night watching movies. His lips seemed to be cracked, and not because we spent all day walking in snow-covered parks. Despite all this, the six-foot-four eroded statue is still a masterpiece.
“Oscar, I told you to not touch her things!” Mom's urgent shriek breaks me from my trance, and I realize where Dad is standing. With walls covered in Stevie Nicks posters and a couch covered in cat hair, this is my bedroom. The bedroom is preserved flawlessly: in fact, if you were to only look at the room and not the people in it, you would think nothing had changed. I see the person I am looking through launch towards the hairbrush Dad is holding.
“Isabella, you have to stop this now! Please… she would not have wanted this-“
My Keeper's bellows cause the walls to pulsate, “How would you know what she would have wanted! She is not here.” She gently pets the brush and places it securely back in place. The images have gone blurry now, and so have my eyes. I lay down.
“Good night, Mummy,” I say before closing my eyes.
“Yeah, Mary, you were right. Perhaps life was better when I couldn't see the other side.” I am back in the original chamber. Mary and I are sitting in our usual spot, conversing while George is jumping around. I have been migrating between the Cinema and the first chamber of Limbo. I continue without my eyes leaving the giggling boy, “She is horrible to Dad. She can't even look after herself, let alone my sister. My heart starts beating faster every time she grabs a knife. I am scared, Mary. What if I turn out like them?” I don't break my gaze, yet Mary knows exactly who “they” are.
There in the corner around a constantly flaming firepit exists the Permanents. They never mix with the rest of the group. Instead, they seemed to have been forced into spending their days smoking and staring. You become a Permanent if your Keeper dies - you get trapped in the Limbo forever with your Keeper as they couldn't finish grieving you. After all, no story can move on without a hand turning its pages. Therefore, a shadow of you and your Keeper is left in the living world.
I keep gravitating between the two rooms for some time. Meanwhile, people come and go, in one door and out another door. Everyone except me is progressing.
The Cinema feels colder today as I walk in. Instead of being greeted by the usual morning chaos of the Harrison household, sirens start blaring from every corner. The screen comes to life, showing my Dad holding our hand in the back of an ambulance.
“Come on, Isabella, stay with me!”
No. No. No! Mommy, why are you there? Why is the screen getting dimmer?
All at once, the Cinema starts flooding. Dad and I are screaming her name, but the water is too powerful, and the screen is becoming blurrier by the minute. While I fight to remain on top of the rising water, I want Mom to fight for her life. I want to hear her scream and shout, to protest the fading light. Yet, I am taken underwater, and the only sound I hear is Dad. As I am washed away from the Cinema, I know Mom is being washed away from the world.
The Cinema discards me back to where my journey in the Limbo started. My eyes look like they are about to explode, swollen and red from carrying around concrete bags of tears. Dripping water along my path, I drift towards the firepit. I don't dare look behind at the little ginger boy kicking and screaming to reach me or the grandma desperately holding him back. I light a cigarette and let my eyes go out of focus, staring at the flames.
I can feel her arms ensnare me. I rest my head on her shoulder, still watching the burning pit. Sharing a single pair of eternity's shackles, we are together, forever, yet at what cost?
SECOND PLACEPick your favorite song lyric or quote and write about it.

Quote: “I don't want to waste my time, become another casualty of society”.
Song-Fatlip By- Sum 41

Through Nella’s Eyes
That clock on the wall. Its pointers ticking every second, turning swiftly as if they were to shoo the past away. For years I stared at the intricate mechanism; eyes squinted, head askew, watching so intently my shoulders tensed against the bed’s splintered headboard. Every night at the same time I sat there, always directly parallel to that clock in my dormitory. I now recoil to the thought that an old timepiece was my best toy, and for so long. I struggle to remember my past self or what she felt, but perhaps it was my way of understanding, of accepting what time took away from me.

Chapter One
—Miss Reye! Time for your reboot! — Mother Atkins’ disembodied voice echoed from the orphanage corridors, making its way through the vacant halls and poorly lit classrooms. Nella, encapsulated by the four off-white walls of her dormitory, had not for a moment deviated her attention from the old clock positioned awkwardly on a dark corner of the room.
Much to her detriment, the dormitory was situated on the third floor near the shower chambers, preventing her from hearing anything with clarity due to the constant sound of pouring water. She did, however, recognize Mother’s distinctive voice and construed a foggy outline of what the words entailed.
Upon years of living in the orphanage, Nella had become highly intuitive. She learned to interpret Mother Atkins’ demeanor by the timbre and tremulousness of her voice and knew when she was angry or in a particularly irritated mood. Nella knew this was the case today.
Lost in thought, she grabbed her Emanator-49 from her pocket and activated it, initializing the hologram feature. A kite-like figure exuded from the small device, in which it was written in plain text: Good morning Nella Reye. Today’s date: 01/25/2042, 7:13. Nella realized what day it was. It was Tuesday, reboot day.
She lifted her feeble body from the solid mattress and rushed towards the room adjacent to the main dining hall to wait in line, discretely arranging her uniform. In her eyes, everything outside the dormitory was eerie; she repeatedly found herself questioning the unnatural order of the place, almost to the extent that she longed for entropy. Mayhem of some sort.
A wave of adolescents with frowns on their faces and filthy pale-blue uniforms headed toward the laboratory to stand in line for hours waiting for their reboot. And to what end? That was just it, nobody knew. What happened behind the thick steel doors of the Reboot Room was unknown to everybody in the premises, including the houseworkers. Nobody seemed to be concerned nor showed any interest in unearthing the reason why they were prompted into walking through those doors every Tuesday at dawn. It had fused with their schedule, becoming a fundamental part of their routine. Perhaps they did it because Mother Atkins and the Sisters were family, and family listens. Right?
—Mother, I’m here. — She said, in a slightly nervous manner.

Immediately upon becoming aware of her arrival, Mother Atkins headed towards Nella from the entrance of the Reboot Room with a resolute stride, her eyes fixated on the girl’s bashful expression. As she approached her, Nella couldn’t help but scrutinize her tall, scrawny figure cocooned by a white collared blouse that hung haphazardly from her torso, complemented with a loosely fitted pencil skirt of the same color. Her face, hollow-cheeked and oblong was framed by short platinum hair that curled slightly at her shoulders, accompanied by an unflattering agglomeration of tufts of fringe that did little to hide the wrinkles in her forehead.
—You are late, Nella. Did the Emanator not wake you? — She inquired, her voice brimming with irony and a hint of disguised vexation. —I apologize Mother, I am fully at fault. — Nella responded. —It has been a frequent occurrence with you lately; you were late for yesterday’s dinner and Sister Rembrandt’s Integration Studies lesson on Saturday! You know of the importance of receiving your Reboot on time. Just like with medication, you cannot take it during the wrong time. The Reboot begins to wear off exactly one week after each session. And tell me Nella, what happens if you skip a session? — Almost mechanically, Nella responded — Night terrors, Mother. — Ah yes, the infamous night terrors! Why, I can only assume you were busy studying for your New History examination then, am I correct? —Her left eyebrow was raised alarmingly high, augmenting her default stark appearance. —Yes, Mother. — Nella didn’t know why she lied; after all, she knew all too well that her tardiness was due to her odd obsession with the clock on her wall. It just fascinated her in a profound level, almost as if it were a part of her, calling to her soul.
Satisfied with her response, Mother Atkins turned around, disappearing behind the doors of the Reboot Room. Nella was instructed to go wait in the back of the line amidst her peers.
Impatient and growing hungrier every minute, Nella pictured herself brunching on delicious breakfast. Last Wednesday’s menu instantly popped into her head. Eggs and toast, she remembered, her mouth salivating. In a sudden moment of epiphany, Nella realized she couldn’t remember breakfast the day before nor on any other Tuesday in her life. That was odd, as breakfast was normally obligatory in the orphanage. It did, however, take place during the same time as the Reboot. Distraught by her discovery, she felt weak just by thinking that she had no remembrance of a part of her past. She seldom stopped to think about that, how in her memory’s place there was a void, sheer emptiness.
Almost an hour later, the queue had shortened significantly. The unspoken nature of the Reboot had started to unsettle Nella recently, but it was only today that she made the conscious decision to take action.
In a sudden burst of adrenaline, when she was certain nobody was looking, she slipped away from the line, gesturing to the girl in front of her to be silent. She needed to think, rid her mind of distractions.
She sprinted to her dormitory, well aware of her limited time. Upon arrival, she closed the door and sat on the edge of her bed. Her heart was beating rapidly, knocking on her chest from the inside. Beads of sweat rolled from the back of her neck, leaving a moist trail behind them. She was dreading the night terrors Mother Atkins had so strongly warned her of, but she needed to feel vulnerable. A victim of something, for once.
Upon minutes of fruitless rumination, Nella remembered her companion. That clock on the wall. She turned her eyes to its familiar pointers, ticking decisively second upon second, tangible markers of time.
She approached the clock with hesitant steps. It was only when she was at an arm’s length from it that she noticed something was different. It was slightly tilted to the side, a detail only she could notice. As she pushed the clock into place with her index finger, something fell from behind it. Something rectangular, about the size of an envelope, yellowed with time.
After minutes of staring blankly at the object, she lifted it from the ground. It was a piece of paper folded into three uneven pieces, in which an assortment of lines and letters were rashly plastered onto it in blue ink. Shockingly, the handwriting seemed awfully similar to Nella’s. It had the same extravagant curves in the t’s, the same angular twist in the o’s. The date was written on the upper left corner, marked at 01/18/2040. Two years ago, on a Tuesday. It read:

Nella. If you are reading this, it probably means my attempt to escape has failed. Mother Atkins is not who you think she is. The orphanage is not what is claims to be.
Something went wrong with my Reboot today. Unlike all the other times, I didn’t black out and wake up in my room. The dosage wasn’t strong enough. I pretended to be unconscious. I heard everything. Among the cacophony of voices discussing my predicament was one I could recognize anywhere, no matter how distant. Mother’s.
Nella, the orphanage is a disguise. It’s a clandestine project that uses individuals that won’t be missed, mere orphans. The Reboot makes us all the same. It is intended to strip you from your individuality as to eliminate differences between humans. Mother said it’s the key to eradicate conflict. They mold you into “exemplary” citizens, and once you turn eighteen, you will be liberated and will serve as an advocate for the organization’s ideologies. The Reboot is a subcutaneous syringe filled with a substance called l320.0 Unifier. It makes you abandon your true essence, what differentiates you. Beneath the drawer next to the bed, you’ll find a plan with everything you need to escape. Years have been taken from your life. I’ll be oblivious by my next reboot. Please, don’t become another casualty of this imperfect world.
THIRD PLACEApples or Oranges?

How was Your Day?
I could say it started with apples.
I could tell my mother about the advertisement for apple orchard tours slapped onto a pole on the way to school, on a street where I remembered that some kids asked me how I could see when my eyes were so narrow when I was young. I could tell her I remembered how I was drinking apple juice at the time and it turned sour in my throat. How I didn’t remember what I said in response, so that bitter taste stayed on my tongue.

I could talk about how the sky was so blue on the way home–huge, pearly streaks of cyan– or the weather, or how I tried not to notice how people moved away when I came onto the bus. I thought about how my mask could hide so much of my face but never my eyes, eyes that drew the eyes of others and made them lean away.
I got off the bus by the second stop. Walking took longer, but it felt better than the stares and glances thrown behind my back.
As I walked, I passed the store I used to buy bottles of Yakult and packets of apple gummies from. It was closed now, its storefront bare save for a green postcard rack tipped onto its side. It reminded me of a fallen tree; its branches bore spray-paint fruit that stained the store’s metal shutters apple-red. They read, ’go home’.
I began to think about the man who owned the store–Mr. Yang, if I remembered right. His store was small, but he presided over it with a religious dedication. He opened the store at six-thirty in the morning, wearing the same striped shirt and dark-blue beret cap, his shoes clicking against his fiercely-scrubbed tiles. He wasn’t one for kids–they made too much of a mess over the candy boxes–but I remembered that he doted on his grandchildren. They were irksome ones too, hands sticky with with popsicles. Got any games on your phone? They’d chase me around and then report me to their grandfather, who’d tell me to leave if I wasn’t going to be nice to them. They would gloat at my defeated back as I handed my phone over to their hands.
I hoped that they weren’t there when he closed the store.
I came home, and my mother asked why it took so long. The bus had to make a detour, I said. She never liked the idea of me walking by myself. I asked her if we had any oranges at home. No, she said, but we have apples. I declined and went upstairs. It was only then, as I was climbing up to my room, that I finally remembered what I had said in response to those kids on my street all those years ago. I had said nothing.
Apple trees can be resilient; they can grow in relatively low temperatures, but their blossoms can freeze and wither in the cold. I wondered if I was like an apple tree. I wondered if the fruit would read, ‘go home’.
Apple tree that I am, I had said nothing to the kids on my street when I was little. Today, I could say so much. I could tell my mother about the store, or the cold front coming in soon, or the feeling of becoming reduced to a pair of eyes behind my mask. I could ask about Mr. Yang. I could tell her I saw a six-year-old on the news carry “Hate is a Virus” signs and that I felt an apple-sized lump sitting in my chest.
But maybe my mother just wanted to ask how my day went. Maybe her mind is already bracing for a normal day and jumping ahead to other matters; documents to finish at work, maintenance to do at home. Maybe I don’t want to open my mouth in case I can still taste apple juice turning sour in my throat. After a pause, I answer.
My day was fine. How was yours?
I could say it started with oranges.
The grocer’s had them stacked them up, waxy-skinned and cold like spare ammunition in the first aisle. I had taken a handful near the top and stood in the line near the cashier’s, expecting the familiar rattle of someone else’s shopping cart coming into line behind me. Instead, when I turned around, I saw an unfamiliar face standing four places behind me, holding up the entire line.
I put the oranges away and left the store.
The two automatic sliding doors bid me my only farewell in faded orange letters: Thank You for Coming. The doors slid back shut just as I heard the sound of several shopping carts moving up the line.
Outside, the wind was achingly cold and the sky a vivid November blue. I began to walk.
I started thinking about how orange trees grow best when exposed to periods of frost. I want to tell my daughter that people are also like orange trees, that they have to be exposed to a certain amount of cold to become resilient and thrive.
She’ll disagree. She’ll ask, how cold is cold enough?
I turned a corner, and saw my daughter. She was walking by herself. She shouldn’t be walking all on her own; my daughter shouldn’t be walking that way, with her head bent down as if the world was too cold for her. I opened my mouth to call her, but stopped when she paused at a shuttered storefront. It was Mr. Yang’s, the same Mr. Yang who used to terrify her from buying a single juice box. The same Mr. Yang who made the rounds every lunar New Year’s to deliver free boxes of oranges to neighbouring families. Now he was gone. She stood there for a long time. I stood as long, watching her until she left, walking into the wind with her head still bent against the cold.
How cold is cold enough? Is it colder than what makes children go outside with hand-coloured “Hate is a Virus” signs? Is it colder than the people behind us who hold the line four spaces back just to avoid standing with us? Colder than go home written on people’s homes, or grandparents getting pushed on the street? Orange tree that I am, I still don’t know. And I hope my daughter never has to find out.
I arrived home before she did. When she came into the door, I asked her why it took so long. The bus took a detour, she said. I left it at that. It hurt that she would lie to me, but I would have said the same.
I thought about what happened in the store earlier today. If she were me, would she have put the oranges back? Would she have left the store when she saw the person four places behind in line?
She tells me her day was fine, how was yours? I open my mouth to tell her the same, but something–an orange-sized something–stops me from getting the words out.
Orange trees are tolerant. They are steadfast. They grow best when exposed to periods of frost, in all kinds of soil, and will provide fruit for generations. But even orange trees have a limit; in the coldest regions in which they’re grown, they need synthetic heat to keep them from freezing over.
How cold is cold enough? My daughter will grow up and move away. She’ll start a career, a path in the world; maybe even a family. I think about how cold it will be for her, when she becomes my age. For my daughter’s daughter, and their children still. Who will be their heat when it gets too cold?
I can’t do much for my daughter’s daughters, and their children still. But I can do something for the girl sitting in front of me now, poking at a piece of beef at the kitchen table. I’ll have to start somewhere.
I’ll say that it started with oranges.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERPick your favorite song lyric or quote and write about it.
Remember us
His eyes are closed and his delicate hands rest over his chest. It’s not the first time I see him in a tuxedo, but he surely has never looked so graceful in it. His mouth forms a discrete smile and I just know he must be having the most wonderful dream. I can’t wait for him to tell me about it when he wakes up. A creaking sound takes me out of the numbness of my thoughts as my mom opens the room’s door.
She sees me staring at the window, and asks softly: “How are you holding up, sweetheart?”.
There’s a storm raging outside, the biggest I’ve ever seen. The world is lifeless, the sky is gray, and death’s scent is everywhere.
Shadows are cast in my face and my only response is bitter tears that begin cutting through my cheeks. Are those raindrops or is it just my own desperate cry?
I finally realize: Rafael, my twin brother and best friend, is gone. Covid-19 had stolen his promising life, and also his right to be mourned by the many who loved him. It took me the right to say my last goodbye.
I desperately seek for him and I find one of the many shirts we had shared throughout the years. As his smell embraces me, I feel whole again.
My bedroom’s mirror stares at me and I notice the shirt is from Adventure Time, our favorite cartoon. The memories of our late night binge-watching sessions strike me and an urge to watch the series finale overwhelms me.
Everything reminds me of him.
Even though we had watched the whole series uncountable times, by the episode’s end, an old song resonates much deeper than I could ever expect. Time Adventure’s lyrics, the animation’s farewell theme, speaks directly to me:
“Time is an illusion that helps things make sense. So we’re always living in the present tense. It seems unforgiven when a good thing ends, but you and I will always be back then”.
Those mere verses make me reflect upon the very essence of human existence. We are a collection of moments that had a beginning and an end, but which are still happening within ourselves. Time is relative when compared to the power of remembrance. I am not losing him. People do not actually leave.
Joyful tears find their way through my face this time. Exhausted, I close my eyes and begin a journey within myself.
I am in a long and shapeshifting hallway that seems to extend and shorten itself erratically. Where am I?
Before I can process my location with certainty, his warm and bright smile welcomes me. Vibrant as ever and wearing his usual oversized blue sweater and tired jeans, he stands silently for a moment and says: “Hey, baby bro”.
Stattled, I collapse into my knees and struggle to find the right words to answer him. In a mixture of sorrow and rage, I growl: “How could you just die?”.
He reaches for me and answers: “I tried my best. I really did”. “I did not leave you, though. You know that, right?”, he completes.
“Our house doesn’t feel like home since you’ve been gone. Mom just wanders completely lost. She hasn’t been herself. And dad… He hasn’t left his study for two weeks now. I’m all alone”, I reply.
Looking at me with teary eyes, he exclaims: "C’mon, get up! I gotta show you something”. He pulls my weight up and pushes me forward - as he always does. Always used to do.
He takes me through the awkward hallway and I start to notice familiar picture frames on the walls. After a while, he stops in front of one of them and my heart falters for a second. I am transported 16 years back in time to our birth.
The hospital’s sepulchral silence is interrupted by our loud cry as we gasp the flavors of life. The nervous laughs of our first-time parents. The pure smell of amniotic liquid, medical equipment, and sweat. In a nutshell, the unique atmosphere that only the creation of new life could conceive. It all feels so real.
Marking the beginning of our story, he led the way out of our mother’s womb to make sure the outside world was safe enough for me. I followed his steps a couple of minutes later and our dynamic as brothers remained unaltered. The bold and the cautious. The protector and the protected.
We continue contemplating our shared memories: our efforts in learning to talk and to walk, our several trips, our movie nights, our elementary and high school projects, our trials against puberty… Every hug, every fight, every conversation, and every act of love. Every second in which he was my person and I was his.
None of that had ceased to exist.
After a period of time navigating through our lives and cheering the good and bad moments, we bump into the end of the hallway. There it is, our last memory waiting for us.
The first thing that hits me is the haunting and overbearing noise of the ambulance’s siren. I can see myself shaking while going to the front door and repeating to myself that everything was going to be alright. There should be nothing to worry about. It was my strong, young, and healthy brother I was talking about. We all had been infected by the virus, but experienced a quick recovery. Yet, somehow his symptoms had only grown worse in the last couple of days. Something was not right.
As the doctors were finishing strapping him into the vehicle, I disobeyed their orders and got close enough so he could see my eyes through the mask and face shield. We needed to have the kind of conversation that only a strong connection could allow and that no words could convey. Looking deep into his iris, I saw fear in his soul for the first time ever. It was then that I realised he wasn’t coming back. When the ambulance took off, I waved and pronounced unspoken words: “Don’t go”.
Back to the hallway, my body hits the ground again. I'm shattered. I couldn’t save him. I had lost the best part of me.
A waterfall of melancholy is unleashed by my eyes and I scream at him: “Why did you take me to see all of this again? Was it so I could remember how useless I was? So I could remember that in the only time you ever needed me to protect you, I wasn’t strong enough to save you?”.
In response, he takes my hand and squeezes it like I used to do to him whenever I had a nightmare and couldn’t sleep anymore. Our brotherly bond is still intact, even after his passing. Soon after, he tells me: “You’re forgetting about Time Adventure’s second part, dummy”.
He then begins whistlining the cartoon’s known melody and we start singing in unison: “If there was some amazing force outside of time to take us back to where we were. And hang each moment up like pictures on the wall inside a billion tiny frames, so that we could see it all, all, all… That's why you and I will always be best friends”.
The coldness left by his absence is slowly warmed up by those lyrics’ sweet reminder: as long as I am here to remember him, we’ll always be together. We’ll always be best friends.
The next morning, I wake up still wearing his Adventure Time shirt and questioning myself if all that was real. It doesn’t matter. It was all real to me. I crawl out of bed and open the curtains. The blinding sunshine illuminates every part of me and I realize the tempestuous time has given space to a beautiful sunny day. The world is rebuilding. It is time for me to do the same. I have to remember us.

2021 ARGUMENTATIVE GLOBAL WINNERSFIRST PLACE: Felipe Tomaz Tancredo, Brazil (with ELL Distinction)
SECOND PLACE: Tan Hwaiyin, Singapore
ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER: Mukhamed Sagyntaiuly, Kazakhstan
FIRST PLACEAre intentions or outcomes more important when judging whether actions are moral?

The Misconception of Intent
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 100 people die due to traffic accidents in the United States every single day. Oftentimes, when reading the news, one might see journalists describe those car crashes and other accidents as fatalities, unavoidable disasters. At times, as well, individuals may justify offensive or even hateful discourse by claiming there were no ill intentions meant.  Even though those situations could be easily avoided by minor behavioral changes, ever-growing views held by our society appear to claim that intent is a necessary condition for moral responsibility. Unintentional offenses tend to be seen in much less of a negative light than other, premeditated acts. Very often, a lack of ill intentions will be pointed out by society as a reason for acquittal, even when the action is a result of negligence or bad faith. However, believing that the responsibility for certain crimes arises mainly from bad intentions is gravely mistaken, and a dangerous assumption to make.
Not focusing on the outcomes when judging someone’s actions presents a potential risk to our society’s well-being by condoning problematic, or even criminal, behaviors that should be broadly frowned upon. This perspective is reinforced by society’s stereotypical view of a criminal: a despicable, ill-intentioned fiend. Such a view ignores the fact that most criminals do not display evil intentions at all because, simply put, the overwhelming majority of people are not evil. Any well-intentioned person may make mistakes and be judged accordingly, lest they remain eternally vigilant. Unfortunate accidents usually happen when regular folk forget a certain precaution or merely use the wrong expression.
A stance supported by various philosophers is that the primary means we have to rightfully judge someone is by analyzing the actual consequences of their actions. Since the dawn of the modern age, a growing number of philosophers have stood behind outcome-oriented thinking. John Stuart Mill, one of the most influential thinkers of Western history, was an adamant defender of what came to be known as consequentialism. In one of his greatest works, Utilitarianism, Stuart asserted that “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness [and] wrong as they tend to produce [pain]”. That is, he claimed that actions should be exclusively judged by their consequences, defined as their aggregate effects on other human beings, for better or for worse. Despite other philosophers—mainly his Kantian adversaries, supportive of intention-oriented ethics—having disagreed with him over the centuries, many of Mill’s core claims still stand today, such as the view that moral absolutes are not the only principles that should guide our morality, but physical and psychological effects on others as well. Most philosophers agree on especially frowning upon actions with bad consequences that also display hints of negligence or irresponsible behavior.
Contemporarily, a paper that comes to mind when discussing the morality of intentions and outcomes is “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?”, by philosopher Thomas Nagel. The work described the impossibility of fully understanding the mental processes that control other rational being’s minds. The American philosopher utilizes the titular bat example by declaring that the only way to grasp why a bat acts the way it does and operates in its own particular manner is being the bat. Taking Nagel’s observations into account, one must conclude that accurately inferring the true intentions of another moral agent is an impossible feat.
As stated earlier, the morality of outcomes is not yet a matter set in stone. However, the diverse ethical theories introduced by philosophers over the ages beg the question: if Nagel and Mill’s statements could be true, how to justify the legal system’s persistence on judging people mostly based on intentions, when the willfulness of a crime is such a subjective matter? Maintaining an intentions-oriented system creates juridical instability, as more and more trials are left to the interpretation of judges and juries, shown to be naturally affected—as all human beings are—by numerous cognitive biases.
Moreover, the grounds for an outcome-oriented morality are not limited to the realm of philosophy. Sociologically speaking, we can also perceive the dreadful impacts of intent-oriented thinking in American society. Research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that driving under the influence alone causes 32% of road accident-related fatalities in the United States every year. Distracted driving causes from 25 to 50% of accidents, and, according to the World Health Organization, every 1% increase in driving speed causes a mean 4% increase in speeding accident fatality rates. All these deaths are avoidable and occur due to negligence, but society still tends to see traffic accidents as mere casualties and those responsible for them as “victims of destiny”.  There have been some advances in this area, such as in the state of Georgia, which punishes manslaughter committed under the influence with up to 15 years of incarceration, nearly equating it to murder charges. However, in the same state, other vehicular homicides involving moving traffic offenses, such as failing to maintain the correct lane position, are punished with only up to a year in prison. This is unacceptable, for the punishment is not nearly severe enough for drivers to be disincentivized from acting negligently and potentially endangering many lives while driving. One could argue that premeditated crimes should in fact be punished more heavily than accidents that occur due to mere irresponsibility, due to the cruelty involved. For example, in some American states, even the death penalty is permitted in cases of first-degree murder. However, while it is a reasonable point to bring up, accidental crimes still should not be as lightly punished as they are today.
Other kinds of accidents, with natures ranging from falls to firearms, aren’t treated by society with enough seriousness. According to the World Health Organization, around 600,000 deaths worldwide happen due to accidental falls every year. These falls range from bathroom slips to plunges down canyons, but they all have something in common: their preventability. Evidently, with better safety precautions in all areas involved, these numbers could be greatly reduced. The same goes for firearm accidents: according to Harvard and Vermont University researchers, more than 400 gun-related fatal accidents occur in the United States per year, on average. Most of the victims are also minors, known to have limited responsibility for their actions, handling a parent’s firearm that was unsafely stored. Therefore, one must conclude that the responsibility for accidents like this rests on external factors, such as parental negligence or lenient lawmaking. The data suggests that with clear responsibilization of those involved and effective policy changes, both scenarios could change. In order to do so, the ones responsible for these tragic numbers, such as government officials or private parties, must be appropriately prosecuted.
Furthermore, the intentions and outcomes debate also comes to mind when talking about discrimination, especially in the workplace. The perception that bigoted jokes or behaviors could be excused by a lack of bad intentions from the offender is extremely harmful to efforts towards equality in our society. Gender discrimination is one of the best examples of this: according to the United States Equal Employment Commission, 54% of women interviewed report having been harassed in the workplace at some point. The definition of harassment used includes verbal assault, inappropriate physical contact and other kinds of violations. This same commission also found out that 75% of employees who do report such behavior suffer some kind of retaliation. This hinders workers’ intentions to report such behavior, as shown by a survey conducted by the company HR Acuity, uncovering that about 40% of employees reported uncertainty or fear as to whether complaints of harassment or other problematic behavior would be appropriately dealt with, at times even fearing they would be punished for filing the complaint. David Lewis, C.E.O. of the Human Resources consulting company OperationsInc, argues that "You hear from people that they didn't intend to offend anyone, [...] [but] that's almost irrelevant. The victim's viewpoint matters most. People put way too much emphasis on intent rather than perception”.
Thus, if we wish to reduce the incidence of negligence-related fatalities in our societies, we must begin to scrutinize these types of behaviors and recognize that failing to be a responsible citizen, respecting others and the law can lead to serious consequences. Society must stop justifying those responsible for accidents by citing a lack of ill intentions. Policy must be implemented to reduce the incidence of the various types of accidents that kill thousands in the United States today, for, by allowing such incidents to happen, those who omit themselves will also become indirectly responsible. We, as a society, must crack down on discriminatory behavior with a focus on the fact that intentions are irrelevant in those situations. Workers should not feel afraid of repression if they report discriminatory behavior in the workplace, and legislators should keep discussing law alterations seeking greater objectivity. Only if these changes are implemented we may move toward a fairer environment for all.
SECOND PLACEShould individuals own their own DNA?

In April 2003, the human genome was sequenced in its entirety for the first time in history under the Human Genome Project. It was a mammoth endeavour, involving scientists from seven countries and costing upwards of $5 billion dollars. Now, barely two decades later, it costs less than a thousand dollars to get your whole genome sequenced. This reduced cost—as well as the thrill of discovering one’s deepest, darkest biological secrets—has fueled the consumer genetic testing market. The increased demand for genetic testing, however, has raised security and privacy concerns surrounding the business practices of these companies. This has led some to advocate for legislation ensuring individuals’ ownership rights to their genetic information. Unfortunately, establishing individual ownership rights to DNA is more difficult than it seems, and can even cause more harm than good. As such, legal parameters instituting ownership rights of genetic information should not be set, because the challenges and disadvantages in doing so outweigh the potential benefits.
The first challenge in implementing DNA ownership rights is in defining what ‘genetic information’ constitutes. Broadly speaking, genetic information includes genealogical information, racial composition, as well as health-based information like genetic markers for certain diseases. However, it is nearly impossible to separate genetic information from medical information, given how inextricably linked the two are. For example, conditions like cystic fibrosis are hereditary, and as such, could be said to fall under genetic information. On the other hand, a cystic fibrosis diagnosis is ostensibly also defined as medical information, appearing in patients' medical records, and there is no way to keep a diagnosis secret from doctors, even if it is genetic in nature. This makes it almost impossible to determine the scope of health-based genetic information that can be feasibly protected by law. The result? Badly written, overly restrictive legislation which can lead to information gaps in patient records. At best, this is inconvenient and time-consuming; at worst, it can be life-threatening.
There are also other conflicts that can arise as a result of poorly constructed genetic ownership laws. In the case of married couples, there is the question of whether spouses have an obligation to release their genetic information to their partner once they are legally married. Genetic information can heavily influence decisions regarding family planning, so it makes sense for an individual to be required to share that information with their spouse. However, this could be seen as compromising the integrity of an individual’s right to genetic privacy. Herein lies the dilemma: does a spouse’s right to know take precedence over their partner’s right to privacy? Additionally, if genetic information was to be classified and protected as property, spouses would then have equal access to and control over each other’s genetic information, similar to how finances are divided among couples. This would appear to completely erase the rationale behind instituting genetic ownership legislation in the first place; namely, to protect the rights and interests of the individual regarding their own genetic information.
A final obstacle in constructing protections of genetic information relates to the fact that DNA is shared among family members. When someone is diagnosed with a serious, inherited medical condition like Alzheimer’s, there is a chance that close relatives could end up developing the condition as well. In a  scenario like this, the altruistic course of action would be to disclose one’s genetic information to relatives who could be at risk of developing the condition. Once again, this comes into conflict with the objective of genetic privacy, which is to ensure that only the individual whose genetic material is involved can decide who they share their genetic information with. With the amount of ambiguity surrounding the intricacies of implementing genetic ownership rights, it may just be better to let sleeping dogs lie.
Even if a legal consensus regarding how to classify and protect genetic information could be reached, the ensuing consequences could be devastating to society at large. Universal individual ownership of genetic information can, for instance, impede scientific progress. Genetic testing companies often sell customer data to pharmaceutical companies for the purposes of medical research and drug development.  A notable example was in 2018, when GlaxoSmithKline secured a $300 million dollar stake in the genetic testing company 23andMe, allowing the pharma juggernaut to mine 23andMe’s databases to develop new medicines. The introduction of genetic privacy laws, however, could make such licensing agreements a thing of the past. Under such legislation, only individuals who provide enthusiastic consent would have their genetic information released for use in medical research. With the sample size of genetic data available greatly reduced, the pace of medical innovation would decelerate drastically, placing human society even further away from a cure for life-threatening conditions like sickle cell disease or type I diabetes. While good for the individual, genetic privacy laws could be detrimental to society at large, particularly those chronically ill or otherwise medically vulnerable.
A second disadvantage could also be derived from the cessation of data licensing agreements, namely that genetic testing could be made much less accessible. Contrary to public perception, direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies do not generate the bulk of their revenue from the sale of genetic test kits; instead, they make most of their money through the aforementioned sale of consumer data. With pharmaceutical companies no longer interested in buying data for research, genetic testing companies would be forced to hike up their test kit prices to maintain profitability, driving down demand as people are dissuaded from purchasing tests due to the cost. While larger firms like 23andMe and AncestryDNA might be able to survive, smaller companies would collapse under the financial strain, simultaneously reducing the supply of genetic tests available to the public. As testing becomes more expensive and less accessible, people with lower incomes would be less inclined to get their DNA tested for potential health risks. On the other hand, the wealthy would remain able to afford genetic tests, allowing them to detect any possible health conditions early on and receive life-saving medical intervention. Over time, this could result in a sharp healthcare gap between the rich and the poor, exacerbating existing income disparities.
There are those who argue that the need for DNA ownership was directly borne out of the pharmaceutical industry’s use of consumer genetic data. They claim that laws protecting genetic information merely allow people to opt out of having their data used in medical research, and that there are plenty of others willing to take part in such studies. Even if this was true, genetic data is not exclusively used to develop drugs. Instead, it can also be useful to law enforcement. In 2018, DNA data from MyHeritage, a private genetic testing company, was used to identify a relative of the Golden State Killer, allowing police to arrest and prosecute Joseph DeAngelo for the crimes he committed more than 40 years ago. When it comes to criminal investigations, only people directly related to the suspect can assist law enforcement, so there is no substituting willing participants for those who want to ‘opt out’. As the result of some statutes of limitations, criminal investigations can also be extremely time-sensitive, and law enforcement waste precious time obtaining permission from relatives to use their genetic information. Therefore, everyone, even those who would prefer to keep their genetic information private, should be required to submit their data to law enforcement when necessary in order to ensure the safety of their fellow citizens.
In summary, while the pursuit of genetic ownership in the spirit of preserving individual civil liberties seems noble, it comes with significant challenges, both in drafting suitable common sense legislation and in the execution of said legislation. DNA is intimately and inextricably linked to an individual’s identity, so it seems logical that the person who contributed the genetic information should be able to control what is done with it. Unfortunately, while the prospect of genetic ownership is attractive, there is a lack of agreement on what it truly means to own your DNA. Until such disputes can be effectively resolved, and methods of ameliorating potential drawbacks devised, implementing genetic ownership is simply not realistic. Instead of rushing headlong into the beguiling promise of freedom, we need to exercise caution in evaluating the risks of giving individuals control over their DNA. Otherwise, we might just end up getting more than we bargained for.
THIRD PLACEAre intentions or outcomes more important when judging whether actions are moral?

By the early 2010s, TOMS shoes had risen to international glory. With a generation of loyal consumers swooning over their minimalist canvas design, TOMS’ trademark alpargatas quickly became a wardrobe essential. What’s more, TOMS also pioneered the buy-one-give-one business model—for every pair of shoes purchased, the company would donate another pair to impoverished youth in the developing world. In a time when the ethics of fast fashion were under scrutiny, TOMS’ corporate activism offered consumers an opportunity to virtue signal, to give back and to look good doing it. But the real impact TOMS shoes left on the world fell short of the brand’s noble intentions. Investigations revealed that TOMS’ buy-one-give-one initiative did little to improve the living conditions in underdeveloped communities and, on certain occasions, even exacerbated poverty. The distribution of nearly 100 million pairs of donated shoes crowded out local cobblers, many of whom relied on selling children’s sneakers to earn a living wage. Furthermore, the communities targeted by TOMS in their “one-for-one” campaign were often in need of more vital resources—water, food, electricity—which were completely disregarded by the company.
As modern consumers, we live in a hyperconnected world, where the consequences of our most trivial actions ripple outwards on an international scale. In this era of rapid globalization, individuals now bear an additional responsibility to act not only with noble intentions in mind, but with heightened sensitivity to the outcomes produced by their actions. The sprinkle of sesame seeds topping an American Big Mac, for instance, are farmed in the Indian city of Ghaziabad, shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, delivered to manufacturers of McDonald’s sesame buns, then distributed to individual stores, where they are paired with beef patties made from cows raised on Brazilian farmland that was once Amazon rainforest, as well as shredded lettuce, cheese, and condiments—each sourced from different international locations. As consumers, therefore, the three dollars we spend on fast food now have implications for global labor rights, environmental preservation, and a host of other concerns. The complexity of these transactions is dizzying and can inspire cynicism, but luckily, no individual has to face these challenges alone. We can begin by abandoning the notion that righteous intentions are a reliable measurement of moral behavior. Moreover, we must embrace a rigorous consequentialist outlook that informs our public policy responses to the global crises and challenges of our era.
The premise that outcomes ought to be prioritized in our moral analysis can be readily understood in the world of social activism and advocacy, where even the best of intentions does not guarantee favorable outcomes. For example, the participation of “allies” in protests and demonstrations, if ill-received, can eclipse the message and core goals of the social movement. What is takes to be a productive ally is, in fact, still hotly disputed today. White allies, for instance, eager to participate in the Black Lives Matter movement, sometimes created a self-centered sideshow discussing their personal feelings of guilt and complicity. While they may have meant well in their participatory efforts, hoping to use their platform and privilege to raise public awareness, certain white allies inadvertently hogged the media spotlight. That said, the solution is not necessarily for social movements to be closed-off or insulated, but rather for allies to understand that contributing to a cause may require them to take different actions and approaches than what they originally expected. An outcome-focused view of morality would encourage these allies to take less intuitive, more effective steps to advocate for social causes they believe in; perhaps that means donating money to a social campaign or using their vote to push for tangible reforms. Decoupling our moral analysis from the assessment of intentions ultimately raises the bar for individuals to be nuanced and critical in assessing the connection between their actions and desired outcomes.
Conversely, when individuals contribute to public well-being in tangible ways, we should not scrutinize the purity of their intentions too zealously. Take, for instance, a law firm that regularly assigns their attorneys pro-bono cases, providing free legal services to indigent defendants. As a result of their work, countless in-need individuals receive better outcomes in court. Often, however, pro-bono work is undertaken not simply out of the firm’s good will or purity of heart, but as a form of corporate self-promotion. At any rate, to a defendant wrongfully accused of crime or to a plaintiff seeking justice, whether the firm undertakes pro-bono cases ultimately to enhance their own reputation or to engage in selfless patronage is a trivial concern as compared to whether or not they can put forth a compelling case in court. Social activists and reformers must be open to instances when the profit motive, careerism, or other “impure” impulses can be powerful drivers of just moral outcomes.
More broadly, to draw accurate moral judgements, we first ought to surrender and debunk the myth that noble intentions always precede and underlie productive outcomes. Even committed philanthropists are often motivated by personal interests in their altruism—the hope of earning social recognition for their good deeds, or in the case of religious charity, the hope of being deemed worthy in the eyes of God. Involvement in altruistic causes, in any capacity, gives individuals a feel-good rush of moral gratification. “Corrupt” or hedonistic intentions may still, therefore, produce valuable outcomes and inspire individuals to perform good deeds.
Admittedly, when judging the legacy of an individual, consequential analysis will not always yield clear moral judgements. The process of consequential reasoning will, however, point us to the full picture of the impacts produced by an individual’s actions. Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, famously donated 100 million dollars to Newark public schools—does this compensate for his complicity in Facebook’s breach of over 85 million users’ data and information? Andrew Carnegie gave us New York’s famous Carnegie Hall—does this excuse his violent suppression of unionists? These inquiries may seem intimidating and will not always produce solid answers, but questioning the moral value placed on different outcomes at least provides us with a more granular, nuanced framework of morality than deontological reasoning could hope to. Given that we can’t ascertain or even read into the thoughts of other individuals, placing intentions at the forefront of our moral analysis would vastly restrict our ability to critically judge the ethics of any action taken. Until the bounds of our epistemic access are expanded to verify individuals’ claims about their underlying intentions, we ought to embrace consequentialist moral reasoning.
Finally, we must be willing to consider the multitude of solutions available to us in tackling the most pressing problems of our time; eliminating all solutions tied to morally “impure” motivations restricts our ability to respond effectively to global crises. In recent years, for example, more private companies have chosen to enter the green technology industry, motivated by the sector’s potential for profit in the coming decades. While money-hungry companies producing green technology are not always concerned for the environment, they cater towards consumer demand without fail—in this case, by producing eco-friendly products—thereby aiding individuals’ shift to a green lifestyle. Simultaneously, other corporations have co-opted the public’s concern for the environment in their marketing strategies; the British Petroleum company, for instance, underwent a thorough rebranding process and was renamed as “Beyond Petroleum,” despite their continued, unsustainable production of petroleum. Ultimately, policymakers and activists should be neither so naive as to buy into the deceptive branding of oil companies going “green” by changing their corporate logo or, on the other hand, so ideological as to cast all profit-driven corporations as part of the problem, not the solution. We must critically assess which actors deserve praise and which should be held accountable for their impacts on the environment, among other global issues.
An intention-oriented framework of morality grounds our inquiry in the intangible world of emotion, and in that sense, is infantilizing. Parents often excuse the wrongdoing of children who “meant well,” or “didn’t know any better,” or just “didn’t mean it.” Is this really how we want to judge ourselves as adults? That we “meant well,” but “didn’t know any better?” Should we just strut around in TOMS shoes and hope for the best? As individuals embracing a consequentialist framework, we’re coming to learn what comes with our roles as modern consumers, social activists, and moral agents: the responsibilities we carry and how we can impact the world.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERShould individuals own their own DNA?

The human body is comprised of trillions and trillions of building blocks called cells. Every cell is a carrier of an essential molecule, DNA, that stores genetic code. Even 0.03% of your genome will be enough to predict your ancestry, personal traits, and possible hereditary diseases. Whenever you clip your nails or have a haircut, you give up this essential piece of data. Parts of yourself – and, subsequently, your DNA – are scattered all across your home within microscopic hair or skin cells. But what if a stranger obtained your biological material? What if – for whatever reason – the state or large corporations started to get interested in your genetic information? How can they use it? Would you be happy to share the most personal information you have? The ease with which DNA material can be gotten has raised concerns about the privacy and ownership over an individual’s genetic code. In addition, the constantly increasing popularity of private companies like 23andMe or Ancestry DNA, which offer consumer genetic testing, creates worries about privacy risks. In understanding this, it is blindingly clear that in order to reflect the values of modern society better and protect the individual security of every person, people should have complete ownership over their DNA.
Over the course of recent years, the value of privacy has constantly been increasing in the eyes of society. People started to care about the confidentiality and security of their data more and more. The headlines of the world’s media are filled with controversy regarding the usage of personal information by tech giants like Facebook and Google. Leaks in government databases could result in a worldwide scandal: in 2020, Russia-backed hackers attacked United States federal government organizations and caused data breaches. Such events show how much value we put in private information nowadays. Genetic code is the same type of personal data, just a lot more valuable. This principle is even directly stated in the latest European Union laws on privacy – General Data Protection Regulation (more known as GDPR). To ensure privacy and security, the right to control who gets access to their DNA should be an exclusive right of each individual. Extensive databases of genetic codes could be subjected to hacking. In fact, such leaks are already happening: in 2018, more than 92 million accounts of MyHeritage, a DNA testing company, were found online. It could be argued that the ownership over DNA by an individual can damage the efficiency of law enforcement. In order to identify perpetrators of crime, the United States’ FBI access DNA databases to compare biological materials from crime scenes with materials of convicted arrestees. However, the usage of natural materials in investigation often violates the principle of privacy. In 2013 in Maryland v. King case, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that DNA samples can be collected even from suspects who weren’t proven guilty. The dissenting justices pointed out that “DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason”, giving law enforcement a right to violate your privacy. By implementing such methods, we are justifying the end by its illegitimate means. If police cannot access the iPhone of the criminal without their permission, why can police acquire their DNA without their permission?
To fully realize the dilemma about whether people should own their DNA, we should consider ethical problems that arise if people lack such rights. Back in the mid-1950s, African American women Henrietta Lacks were diagnosed with cancer. To better understand the nature of her disease, doctors abstracted cancerous cells and analyzed them. They later found out that a mutation granted those cells an ability to self-preserve and not die out, unlike normal cells. Because of this unique characteristic, those HeLa cells, which were obtained 60 years ago, are still used in scientific research. However, neither Henrietta nor any of her family members gave any consent to the continuous use of her samples. While pharmaceutics corporations made colossal profits on the medicines derived from those cells, the family didn’t even know that Henrietta’s cells were alive. The Lacks have not been compensated for Henrietta’s cells and virtually did not receive anything from that. From the ethical point of view, it would be fairer if underprivileged and impoverished Lacks were at least notified how the cells of their family member are used. As a part of the right to own their DNA, patients should have the power to decide how their biological samples are used. Any unauthorized access to the genome by third parties should be strictly prohibited. Polls show that the populace agrees that it should be possible to patients to claim a share of income if their DNA is used in the commercial field. Such ideas are even suggested by American Medical Association; however, there are no legal grounds for that. Some could think that granting people ownership over their DNA could damage scientific activities. In reality, studies show that people are generally willing to share their DNA for the greater good. Furthermore, more than 80% of customers of 23andMe genetic services voluntarily agree to participate in the company’s research initiative. Data collected from these people were helpful in determining the disease risks associated with specific genetic variants, including psychiatric conditions like ADHD, depression, and neuroticism. This example illustrates that the research activity is not disrupted even if individuals have the right to decide how their genome is used.
Another critical thing to consider while discussing the ownership rights over DNA is how the situation can change in the future. With genetic code, it is easy to predict with nearly 100% certainty a person’s genealogy, ancestry, personal psychological and physiological traits, or genetically inherited diseases. On the current level of technological development, the worst thing related to the loss of DNA is the leaking of the personal information associated with DNA. Alternatively, in the future, this could be the most innocuous thing to occur. With the ever-increasing speed of advancements in genetic engineering, one could only imagine what can happen if some stranger obtains your DNA. In the years 2018 and 2019, a Chinese scientist Dr He Jiankui created the first genetically modified babies. He altered the genes of the embryos to create a specific sequence that would build immunity against HIV. If modern biology gives such possibilities to one person, it is frightening how the situation can change in the coming decades. Obviously, the most effective way of preventing any such unlawful experiments or manipulations with the genome in the future is granting each individual full ownership right over their DNA. Instead of collecting other’s genomes, law enforcement should ensure the security and privacy of every person’s DNA.
DNA is one of the most valuable assets every person has. If we want to secure values of privacy, security, and morals, ownership of DNA is the necessity. The genetic code should be protected as any other personal data is, while biological samples should be subjected to common ownership rights.








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