PDF Banking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk, and Sperm in Modern America

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And yet treatment of each body product echoes a common theme and difficulty. In each of these instances, bodies and body parts either legally or effectively have been reduced to the status of nonproperty in the hands of the individuals from whom they come. Yet the same bodies and body parts are most certainly property — and valuable property at that — in the hands of all who follow, including medical and research institutions, private biobanks, and other businesses.


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In other words, in America, bodies and body parts are not property, except when they are. Endless ink has been spilled debating whether those who provide body products for medical or research uses should be entitled to compensation, in a free market or otherwise.


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In many instances, prohibitions have been deemed necessary to protect both suppliers and recipients: Suppliers, because they may be of limited economic means and may therefore be exploited to participate in efforts not otherwise consistent with their wellbeing or desires. Swanson surveys the history of the body bank, which began with blood but went on to shape American law and nonlegal norms governing many forms of body-product exchange.

Banking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk, and Sperm in Modern America by Kara W Swanson

In the course of this history, Swanson makes two more profound points. First, her historical account reveals that, for many years, paid blood sellers were not persons to fear or the desperate poor we worry about today. Swanson briefly recognizes that the history of the biobank impacts the way in which interests in body parts are constructed, not only for purposes of medical treatment, but also for research pp. But Swanson says little more on the subject.

Body Banking from the Bench to the Bedside

This Review picks up where Swanson leaves off. A shift toward greater parity between body-product producers and others in the supply chain need not entail a market-free zone or a free market.


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  • A physician, Dr. Yet the bank metaphor labeled blood as something to be commercially bought and sold, not communally shared.

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    As blood banks became a fixture of medicine after World War II, American doctors made them a frontline in their war against socialized medicine. Ultimately, the bank metaphor straitjacketed legal codes and reinforced inequalities in medical care.

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    At different hospitals, doctors either bought blood or made recipients promise to donate later. At times, the system of tissue exchange reflected contemporary national dialogue.

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    So in the The commodified body: Scott Carney assesses a study of banked human blood, sperm and milk. Author: Scott Carney. Date: Apr.