Body parts in property theory: an integrated framework

- Journal of Medical Ethics
Author/s: -Nwabueze, Remigius Nnamdi
Journal: J Med Ethics
Year: 2014
Volume: 40
Issue: 1
Pages: 33-38

The role of property theory as a framework for analysis and regulation of body parts has become a debate of topical importance because of the emergence of biomedical technologies that utilise body parts, and also because the application of the concept of property, even with respect to historically and traditionally accepted forms of property, raises serious challenges to the property analyst. However, there is another reason for the topicality of property in relation to body parts: a proprietary approach confers on a claimant the advantage of continuing control that is tellingly lacking in non-property frameworks underpinned, for instance, by consent, negligence, privacy and unjust enrichment rules. In some circumstances, such as an unauthorised blood test performed on a blood sample obtained with consent, the continuing control provided by property law might be the only chance a claimant has to obtain a remedy. Economy of space, however, requires that only a prolegomenon on body parts and property theory is given below. Thus, the analysis begins by providing in outline a framework for comprehensive analysis of body parts within the realm of property theory; thereafter, the author engages with the normative question of whether body parts or rights exercisable over body parts could be admitted into the category of property.