Open Access

Biomedical Research and the Commercial Exploitation of Human Tissue

  • Stephen Wilkinson
Genomics, Society and Policy20051:27

DOI: 10.1186/1746-5354-1-1-27

Published: 15 February 2005


There is widespread anxiety about the commercialisation and commodification of human tissue. The aims of this paper are: (a) to analyse some of these concerns, and (b) to see whether some of the main ethical arguments that lie behind them are sound. Part 1 looks at 'inducement arguments' against paying individuals for their tissue and concludes that these are generally quite weak. Part 2 examines some ethical objections to third parties (e.g. biotechnology companies and researchers) commercially exploiting human tissue. Firstly, it is argued that prospective tissue donors should be given very full information about the extent to which their tissues will be commercially exploited and about the financial interests of tissue collectors and researchers, since this is an essential component of valid consent. Secondly, some doubt is cast upon the (widely held) view that while 'the human body and its parts shall not, as such, give rise to financial gain', intellectual property based on human tissue research is generally acceptable1