ened in the commercialization of biology and the assertion by individuals of property rights in their removed body parts.

If I'm correct in saying that we mostly think and act as if our organs and tissues are not exactly property and not exactly surplus but a kind of gift, then that gift relationship is seriously threatened by these two events. There are dangers to the common good here. There's the danger that people may become reluctant to permit their organs to be used in research in teaching, damaging both enterprises. There's a danger that public trust and confidence in the scientific profession may be damaged if scientists come to be seen as greedy or, especially, as having taken advantage of a person who has made a gift of his own organ or whatever to science.

The first thing we have to do, I think, is face reality and admit that our system for handling tissue and organ donations is already changing. Nostalgia for an age of innocence will only blind us to the need to make whatever adjustments are necessary to preserve justice, respect for persons, and the common good. It's likewise true that there are values in conflict here, and that we will have to compromise in order to preserve what's important.

A couple of cautions. First, I think the greatest threat posed by this issue is to the public confidence in science and to the public's willingness to support science with, among other things, gifts of their tissues and organs. If the public perceives that scientists are taking advantage of people who have made such gifts, their sense of justice will be offended and they will expect some kind of restitution.

Second, I do not believe that elaborating in the consent form to indicate what will happen should tissue be the basis of a profitable activity is much of a solution, either. It threatens to alter the nature of the patient-researcher relationship, may diminish the supply of tissues for research, and is probably relevant to, at most, a handful of occasions nationwide in a year.

As to what Congress can do at this time, I think that biotechnology entrepreneurs should be strongly encouraged to adopt policies assuring that individuals and corporations do not unduly prosper from the gifts of individuals' tissues, and organs. Since the gift was originally given in the spirit of public service, some part of the profits should be returned to a similar goal. In addition, the person should be compensated; not because we own our bodies, but because there are two valuable things we want to preserve: the dignity of the human body and its parts, and the gift relationship between scientists and the public.

If biotechnologists fail to make provision for a just sharing of profits with the person whose gifts made it possible, the public sense of justice will be offended and no one will be the winner. Congress could foster a meeting among concerned representatives of science, industry, academia, and the public to draw up a voluntary policy. If this is not done, or if the policy is flaunted, then more direct Congressional action may be necessary to promote justice and to show respect for persons and promote the common good.

Thank you.

[The prepared statement of Dr. Murray follows:

Testimony before the Subcommittee on

Investigations and Oversight

U.S. House of Representatives

Committee on Science and Technology

October 29, 1985

Thomas H. Murray, Ph.D. Institute for the Medical Humanities The University of Texas Medical Branch

Galveston, Texas 77550

What brings us here is a stunningly recent realization

that parts of our bodies might have significant--even

enormous--value in a commercial market.

As has happened so

often in recent years, technology has confronted us suddenly

with a moral and legal conundrum that we scarcely could have

imagined before.

No sooner are we introduced to the idea,

then we are being asked to make public policies to control


If there is any contribution I can make to the

deliberations of this committee, it will be to dig into our

moral traditions, and to look at our current practices for

what they can tell us about the moral content of our

relationship with our physical bodies.

I will do it in

three steps.

First, I will look at three ways we have for

hinking about our tissues, organs and bodily products.

Second, I will try to understand where the current

controversy fits within those three models.

And third, I

will explore the implications of this, and other ethical

concerns, for making public policy on human biologicals. Along the way I will address the issues of informed consent

in medicine and research, and of the ownership of human

biological products.

Thinking About the Body

Perhaps the most difficult thing about this issue is

its unfamiliarity.

We are not accustomed to thinking about

The first step in addressing the

our body in such terms.

problem then is figuring out how to think about our moral

relationship with our body parts.

The best way to do that

is to identify the possible ways of thinking about our

body--let's call them models--and see how well they fit our

moral beliefs and practices.

I apologize in advance if this

seems too abstract.

The French writer Paul Valery once

wrote, "I introduce here a slight observation which I shall

call 'philosophical,' meaning simply that we can do without


But I am convinced in this case that philosophy is

just what we need if we want to understand what is at stake


I can find three general models of our relationship

with parts of our body that become separated from it: as

commercial property; as surplus; or as gifts.

The first

model is the body as property, fair game for sale or

purchase in the market place.

In favor of this idea, we can

point to the fact that people may legally sell their blood

[blocks in formation]

Yet there are many things in our society that are not

for sale.

Laws forbid the sale of our freedom, our

children, and most recently and relevantly, our bodily


The enormous public furor and rapid Congressional

action against a Virginia entrepreneur who proposed to buy and sell human organs for transplant testify to the deep

moral repugnance many people feel to the notion of a market

for tranplantable organs.

There are two likely sources of this repugnance.


is the worry that permitting organs to be bought and sold will result in the poor selling and the wealthy buying.

This is what has happened in Brazil.

A second source is the

deep conviction that the body and its parts are somehow

different from other things, central to our dignity as human


They are not commodities.

Even though we may sell

our labor or our ideas, even though we may place our health

at risk in our work or leisure, the conviction that the

physical body and its parts should not be for sale is widely


The controversy over surrogate motherhood points in the

same direction.

A Michigan Circuit Court rejected a

surrogate contract arguing that "mercenary considerations

used to create a parent child relationship and its impact

upon the family strike at the very foundation of human society and is (sic) patently and necessarily injurious to

the community."

While the statutes seem to concentrate on

surrogate mothers as sellers of children, there appears to

be also some uneasiness about the commercialization of the

woman's body it implies.

Non-commercial surrogate

motherhood, as for example when a sister might offer to bear

her brother-in-law's child, when his wife cannot, comes in

for much less disapproval, and may not be touched by most of

the state laws that prohibit surrogacy-for-profit.

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