Persons and Their Parts: New Reproductive Technologies and Risks of Commodification

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This paper explores one aspect of the social implications of new reproductive technologies, namely, the impact such technologies have on our understandings of family structures and our expectations of children. In particular it considers whether the possibilities afforded by such technologies result in a more contractual and commodified understanding of children. To do this the paper outlines the possibilities afforded by NRTs and their commodificatory tendencies; second, it explores the commodification debate using the somewhat parallel example of commodification of organs; and third, in light of these debates the link between the commodification of body parts and persons is addressed. It will argue that there is a prime facie connection between body parts and persons and thus, although needing to be balanced with other ethically relevant factors, commodification remains an issue of ethical concern. Accordingly we should only be supporting potentially commodifying practices when there are ethically pressing reasons to do so (such as in organ transplantation). Moreover given this link between body part and persons we should attempt to lessen commodifying attitudes and thus should resist the increasing use of practices which regard children as having choose-able parts.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-46
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Care Analysis
Issue number1
Early online date9 Jan 2009
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009


  • Donation, Objectification, Body parts, Reproduction, Persons, Technology, Commodification