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The Body as Gift, Resource or Commodity?: Heidegger and the Ethics of Organ Transplantation
Södertörn University, School of Culture and Communication, Centre for Studies in Practical Knowledge.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8973-8591
2010 (English)In: Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, ISSN 1176-7529, E-ISSN 1872-4353, Vol. 7, no 2, 163-172 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Three metaphors appear to guide contemporary thinking about organ transplantation. Although the gift is the sanctioned metaphor for donating organs, the underlying perspective from the side of the state, authorities and the medical establishment often seems to be that the body shall rather be understood as a resource. The acute scarcity of organs, which generates a desperate demand in relation to a group of potential suppliers who are desperate to an equal extent, leads easily to the gift’s becoming, in reality, not only a resource, but also a commodity. In this paper, the claim is made that a successful explication of the gift metaphor in the case of organ transplantation and a complementary defence of the ethical primacy of the giving of organs need to be grounded in a philosophical anthropology which considers the implications of embodiment in a different and more substantial way than is generally the case in contemporary bioethics. I show that Heidegger’s phenomenology offers such an alternative, with the help of which we can understand why body parts could and, indeed, under certain circumstances, should be given to others in need, but yet are neither resources nor properties to be sold. The phenomenological exploration in question is tied to fundamental questions about what kind of relationship we have to our own bodies, as well as about what kind of relationship we have to each other as human beings sharing the same being-in-the-world as embodied creatures.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 7, no 2, 163-172 p.
Keyword [en]
Organ transplantation, Ethics, Phenomenology, Embodiment, Heidegger
National Category
Medical Ethics Philosophy
Research subject
Critical and Cultural Theory; Baltic and East European studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-7775DOI: 10.1007/s11673-010-9222-xISI: 000277788600004ScopusID: 2-s2.0-77952566118Local ID: 1169/42/2007:3OAI: diva2:409539
Kroppen som gåva, resurs och vara: organtransplantationer i Östersjöområdet
The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, 1169/42/2007:3
Available from: 2011-04-08 Created: 2011-04-08 Last updated: 2016-10-10Bibliographically approved

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