We use cookies for site personalization, analytics and advertising. You can opt out of third party cookies. More info in our privacy policy.   Got it

Body Shopping: The Economy Fuelled by Flesh and Blood

Body Shopping

Donna Dickensen’s fascinating overview of the complex world of medical ethics begins with the seemingly simple question: ‘Do we own our own bodies?’ From the answer given by the legal world – a pretty unequivocal ‘No’ – flows much philosophical and commercial wrangling, with individual rights pitted against state and corporate might. Drawing on examples such as the US Supreme Court’s decision that John Moore, whose spleen was removed and used in research, had no claim on any of the profits that research generated, Dickensen demonstrates that, time and again, legal logic-chopping is used to prioritize commercial interests over ethical or, indeed, humanitarian concerns.

Dickensen covers much territory in this short book – from the global scandal that is ‘egg harvesting’ in which desperate women from poor communities are turned into ovulating factories, to the huge profits generated by umbilical cord blood banks. She presents a chilling world in which the human body is no more than a collection of raw material for lucrative bio-engineered products: a technological equivalent of the 18th-century Enclosure Acts that appropriates our ‘genetic commons’. She acknowledges that there are influential voices who welcome such developments, such as the French author Herve Juvin, who recasts the 1960s feminist slogan ‘Our bodies, ourselves’ as ‘My body, my capital’, viewing flesh and bone, organs and genes as material assets, just like any other. Body Shopping is a welcome and timely rallying cry for those who find such enthusiastic commodification of the human body to be both reductive and repugnant.

*PW*

New Internationalist issue 414 magazine cover This article is from the August 2008 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Subscribe today »

 

Help us produce more like this

Editor Portrait Patreon is a platform that enables us to offer more to our readership. With a new podcast, eBooks, tote bags and magazine subscriptions on offer, as well as early access to video and articles, we’re very excited about our Patreon! If you’re not on board yet then check it out here.

Support us »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop