PropertyProf Blog

Editor: Stephen Clowney
Univ. of Kentucky College of Law

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Who Owns Your Placenta?

My wife and I had a baby in December (yeah Capricorns!).  During the end of 2010, I ended up reading a lot of stuff (often on the internet, often late at night) trying to prepare myself for the main event.  The strangest things I came across (and that's saying something) is the growing popularity of placenta encapsulation (here's an article from Time magazine).  There appears to be a whole cottage industry of people who will cook your placenta, freeze dry it, and turn it into pills that allegedly help to ward off postpartum depression.

The thing that really surprised me is that a nurse will gift-warp your placenta and let you walk out of the hospital with it.  If poor John Moore didn't have a property right to his leukemia cells, why can women just walk out of the hospital with a bag of biohazard?  Well, after a little digging on the placenta encapsulation message boards (Yes Virginia, they exist!) it turns out that the issue is really complicated and varies a lot by state.  Indiana, for example, forbids hospitals from turning over the placenta to the mother.  On the other end of the spectrum, Hawaii has passed a law protecting the right of parents to access the placenta.  If you're curious about state policies I found a chart on U.S. placenta laws (Internet win!)       

Steve Clowney

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