Human tissue and global ethics

Published on February 27, 2022   33 min

Other Talks in the Series: Tissue in Research

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Welcome to this talk on Human Tissue and Global Ethics. I'm Professor Donna Dickenson and I'm an Emeritus Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of London.
The global trade in human tissue is sometimes referred to as 'body shopping'. That's the title of a book that I wrote on the subject. Many people will have heard about it, in particular respect to one phenomenon, sometimes called 'reproductive tourism'. This is the trade-in of human eggs and sperm, often sold by private banks. An example, which really is reproductive tourism in both senses, is this advertisement from a US college newspaper, which is headed, "Girls: Sell your eggs and enjoy the nightlife of Chennai!" Another example is this statement on the web is from the founder of a commercial egg and sperm bank called Beautiful People. The quotation is, "Everyone, including ugly people, would like to bring good-looking children into the world, and we can't be selfish with our attractive gene pool."
More seriously, the trade in human tissue, and particularly the market in human eggs is a complex market, and it's differentiated by so-called 'desirable' phenotypes such as musicality, intelligence, height, athletic ability, and even hair and skin color, and these can all affect the pricing of human eggs. In those jurisdictions that permit egg sale, and not all do, even in the United States, many jurisdictions do not permit it in many states. But where it is permitted, the Ethics Committee of the American College of Reproductive Medicine sets out guidelines. In the 2021 guidelines, they view payment for eggs used in research or reproduction as ethically justifiable, if not so high as to be an inducement to sell. This is a broader phenomenon than merely the sale of human eggs and sperm, as important as that is.