Bioethics Discussion Blog: "This is Mine!": Property and Ethical Rights of Your Body by Yourself and Others

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Sunday, June 08, 2014

"This is Mine!": Property and Ethical Rights of Your Body by Yourself and Others









Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, 1754  wrote "The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said 'This is mine,' and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society."  Of course, property rights has continued through the ages and their defense has let to law suits as well as wars.  The question in recent years as applied to the human body is how property rights are applied to the body or tissues or cells or the genetic DNA of the cells themselves.  I found a very interesting discussion of this issue titled "Whose Body Is It Anyway?  Human Cells and the Strange Effects of Property & Intellectual Property Law" written by Robin Feldman, Professor of Law and Director, Law & Bioscience Project, UC Hastings College of the Law and which can be accessed through this link.



She begins her analysis with the following:

 "There are many aspects of our lives over which we can exercise what can be  called ownership, control, or dominion. However one conceptualizes ownership, it is  clear that people can hold such rights in many things, ranging from more concrete items,  such as automobiles, jewelry, or a plot of land, to more abstract concepts such as our  labor, our writings, our innovations, and even our commercial image.

Whatever else I might own in this world, however, it would seem intuitively obvious that I own the cells of my body. Where else could the notion ofownership begin, other than with the components of the tangible corpus that all would recognize as 'me'?

The law, however, does not view the issue so neatly and clearly. Through the rambling pathways of property and intellectual property law, we are fast approaching the point at which just about anyone can have property rights in your cells, except you. In addition, with some alteration, anyone can have intellectual property rights in innovations related to the information contained therein, but you do not.

I should be clear at the outset that I am talking about property and intellectual
property rights to cells when they are no longer in your body. The sanctity of control over one’s body remains reasonably intact, as long as the cells are attached to you. When cells are no longer attached, however, the legal landscape shifts, and the resulting tableau has a strong effect on the choices one can make with those cells that do remain in the body.

As so often happens in law, we have reached this point, not by design, but by the piecemeal development of disparate notions. Various doctrinal strands have emerged in isolation of each other, each appearing to solve a particular problem in its own domain. When gathered together, however, the doctrines form a strange and disconcerting picture."

As one can see from her discussion, the answer to my question has been legally muddled over the years.  My question to my visitors here is how do you look at the property rights of your own bodies? Should you have potential control of any cells or tissues removed from your body both when you are alive and even after death?  If the cells or tissues are used by others which end up in financial gain, should you or your  beneficiary also have access to that gain? How far should your exclaiming  "This is Mine" apply? ..Maurice.

Graphic: Photograph taken by me June 7 2014 and modified using Picasa3.


2 Comments:

At Tuesday, July 15, 2014 7:24:00 AM, Blogger M Banterings said...

Some hospitals (without telling the parents) take DNA samples, supposedly to identify the baby in case of a kidnapping right after the parents take the baby home (because that could never happen at a hospital).

Some states take DNA with fingerprints when people are arrested.

Follow my reasoning here.....

Your grandson is born, hospital takes his DNA. Your son is misidentified by a witness, (wrongly) arrested, police take his DNA. Your mother, before she passed, went on an ancestors web site, submitted her DNA to see if she is related to Henry VIII.

The government which sooooo respects and protects our civil rights (can you say N-S-A), can take those pieces to assemble your DNA with a 95% accuracy.

You throw your 44oz (energy drink) soda cup away while walking down the street in NYC, I pick it out of the trash (perfectly legal, you did throw it away). I can now extract your DNA.

There are only 4 molecules in DNA, theoretically I could synthesize every person in a lab, just randomly. It is like the following example: the infinite monkey theorem...

It states that enough monkeys, hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for a long enough amount of time will eventually write all the works of Shakespeare.

With the DNA example, the monkeys would only have 4 keys on the keyboard.

The solution is to look at the intrinsic value and dignity that every person has. To value a person and their uniqueness, the fact that they are a self aware entity, (and not just a slab of meat,) then that would put a greater value on individuality and bring protections for the blueprint of the individual.

You may counter with identical twins share the same DNA, but that only strengthens MY point. Those twins have the same blueprint, but are 2 different people.

Further identical twins have been scientifically proven to have a closer bond and connection than regular siblings. They are aware when one is hurting (physically or emotionally) when separated, they finish each other's sentences, and many create a language that only they can understand.

So, now you take my DNA, make a clone, potentially I develop the "connection" with my clone like identical twins. Now you (via your clone of me) have access to my mind, my thoughts, my person. You also have access to my life, reputation, etc. by the nature of the clone being mistaken for me.

Hurdles to valuing the individual as a person and as a human being are just too inconvenient for the rest of the world.

 
At Tuesday, July 15, 2014 2:23:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

I am not sure that human clones (similar to that of "identical" twins) develop into the "same person" from which the DNA was recovered. Once the genetics are "in place", there is still much opportunity for the individuals to differ on a cellular level (cellular heterogeneity) but also as exposed to even slight differences in environment, there will occur differences in understanding and behavior. Cloning represents the method of creation but not necessarily the final result of that creation. ..Maurice.

 

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