Episode 12. Anne Phillips on Ownership and the Body

Is the human body a piece of property? We certainly object to the sale of whole human beings, but what about cases where a person merely wants to sell a part of her body? If I am free to donate my organs, why am I not free to to sell them as well? For Professor Anne Phillips, the problem lies in treating the body as property, analogous to any other commodity.

In this episode of Public Ethics Radio, we explore issues of ownership and the body. These questions do not end with organ sales. What limits, for instance, should we put on the sale of bodily services like surrogacy? Should trade in these services be limited, in order to prevent the poor from being exploited by the rich? Should organ markets be legalized and regulated? We discuss these questions with Anne Phillips, Professor of Political Gender and Gender Theory at the London School of Economics.

Click here to download the episode (37:58, 18.2 mb, MP3), or click on the online media player below. You can also download the transcript. Music in this episode was provided by Liberty.


Details on surrogacy, mentioned in the introduction, are from Amelia Gettleman “India Nurses Business of Surrogate Motherhood,” New York Times, March 10, 2010; Abigail Howorth, “Surrogate Mothers: Wombs for Rent,” Marie Claire, August 2007; and Helmata Aithani, “Indian Surrogate Mothers in Demand for Pregnancy Outsourcing,” Xinhua, April 8, 2010.

Phillips mentions Stanford law professor Margaret Radin, who is well known for her work on property theory and commodification. Details on her research are available on her website.

John Harris and Charles Erin, both of the University of Manchester, described their propose to regulate organ sales within the European Union in “An Ethical Market in Human Organs,” British Medical Journal 29, no. 3 (2003), pp. 137–8.

Phillips refers to an argument about self-ownership and pregnancy. The argument is laid out by Margaret Davies, of Flinders University, and Ngaire Naffine, of the University of Adelaide, in their book, Are Persons Property? Legal Debates about Property and Personality (Ashgate, 2001).

1 Comment

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One response to “Episode 12. Anne Phillips on Ownership and the Body

  1. Pingback: The Poisonous Drivel of Dr Denis MacShane MP « The Disorder Of Things

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