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Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Property in the Body

My Property Theory seminar this semester included a three-class unit on property in the human body.  Most of our discussion focused on issues of alienability and commodification -- should it be okay to sell organs?  To sell parental rights to a child (aka "baby selling")?  To enforce surrogacy contracts?  Etc.  At the end of the unit, the students voted on each issue.  I'm not sure what to take from the results, but I thought I'd share them:

Should a person be able to donate or sell the following body parts during life?

Blood or other things that regenerate?

Donate:  16 Yes, 0 No.     Sell:  16 Yes, 0 No.

Tissue or organ where removal not likely to cause harm? 

Donate:  16 Yes, 0 No.     Sell:  16 Yes, 0 No.

Tissue or organ where removal may cause harm?

Donate:  16 Yes, 0 No.     Sell:  11 Yes, 5 No.

Tissue or organ where removal likely to cause harm?

Donate:  14 Yes, 2 No.     Sell:  8 Yes, 8 No.

Tissue or organ where removal will be fatal?

Donate:  5 Yes, 11 No.     Sell:  5 Yes, 11 No.

Issues Relating to Donation of Organs After Death

Should we allow payment during life to people to agree to donate organs after death?

If revocable:  14 Yes, 2 No.

If irrevocable:  9 Yes, 7 No.

Do you favor a government regulation presuming intent to donate?

5 Yes, 11 No.

Do you favor a government regulation requiring harvest of organs regardless of deceased's intent?

0 Yes, 16 No.

In absence of evidence of intent of deceased, should the next of kin be able to "donate" in return for a fee paid to the estate?

6 Yes, 10 No.

Issues Relating to Procreation

Should parents be able to give children up for adoption?

16 Yes, 0 No.

Should parents be able to receive a fee as part of the adoption process?  In other words, should parents be able to sell their babies?

8 Yes, 8 No.

Should parents be able to sell fertilized human eggs to another person so that person can have children?

15 Yes, 1 No.

Should parents be able to sell frozen embryos to the highest bidder regardless of intended use?

10 Yes, 6 No.

Should surrogacy contracts be enforceable in the following situations:

Child conceived with surrogate's egg, donated sperm?

8 Yes, 8 No.

Child conceived with surrogate's egg, "adoptive" father's sperm?

14 Yes, 2 No.

Child conceived with "adoptive" mother's egg, "adoptive" father's sperm?

16 Yes, 0 No.

Should prostitution be legal?

13 Yes, 3 No.

Some of the votes may seem shocking taken out of the context of our class discussion.  For example, our discussion of allowing people to donate or sell organs where the removal would be fatal was done in the context of a hypothetical about whether a parent could rationally make that type of decision to save the life of a child.  If nothing else, the votes show that on a number of issues, a group of law students educated in property theory hold some views outside of the mainstream.  I think that's a good thing; others may disagree.

Ben Barros

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/property/2005/10/property_in_the.html

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