Selling bits and pieces of humans to make babies: The gift of the magi revisited

J Med Philos. 1999 Jun;24(3):288-306. doi: 10.1076/jmep.


Reproductive medicine, a sector of a health care system increasingly captured by the demands of the marketplace, is enmeshed in a drive to sell certain human bits and pieces, such as gametes, cells, fetal eggs, and fetal ovaries, for reproductive purposes. The ethical objection raised by Kant and Radin to the sale of human organs - that this is incompatible with human dignity and worth - also applies to these sales. Moreover, such sales nullify the reproductive paradigm, irretrievably replacing it with a manufacturing paradigm. This represents a change in kind, not just of degree, in the way that we view our capacity to generate children and destroys our concept of reproduction as an essentially human activity. In the face of a struggle to retain those common ethical values at the foundation of reproductive medicine, this form of commodification of the human body should be viewed as ethically unacceptable.

MeSH terms

  • Aborted Fetus
  • Commerce
  • Commodification*
  • Dehumanization
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Female
  • Gift Giving
  • Health Care Sector* / standards
  • Human Body*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oocyte Donation*
  • Organ Transplantation / economics
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Reproductive Medicine* / economics
  • Reproductive Medicine* / standards
  • Social Values*
  • Spermatozoa
  • Tissue Donors
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement
  • United States