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Mason and McCall Smith's Law and Medical Ethics

Mason and McCall Smith's Law and Medical Ethics (12th edn)

Anne-Maree Farrell and Edward S. Dove
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date: 26 February 2024

p. 46114. The Body as Propertylocked

p. 46114. The Body as Propertylocked

  • A. M. FarrellA. M. FarrellChair of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh
  •  and E. S. DoveE. S. DoveReader in Health Law and Regulation at the University of Edinburgh


This chapter explores the debates that have arisen in relation to questions of ownership and control of our bodies, and what we are (or should be) able to do, with our separated human body parts and tissue. In recent years, this debate has centred on the status of the body as property, key aspects of which are examined in this chapter. In order to explore the parameters of this debate, the chapter proceeds with first identifying key terms, before moving on to examine key concepts such as ownership, control, and commodification; various property models in human tissue; and a comparative overview of jurisprudence addressing questions of trade and property in human tissue. Thereafter, an examination is provided of key UK case law which engages with the property approach in human tissue, covering reproductive material, the embryo, and the dead body, by way of example. The final section briefly examines intellectual property in human tissue.

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