21 April 2019


'Tradable Body Parts? How Bone and Recycled Prosthetic Devices Acquire a Price without Forming a ‘Market’' by Klaus Hoeyer in (2009) 4(1) Biosocieties 239-256 comments
Exchange of material originating in human bodies is essential to many health technologies but potentially conflicts with a prominent moral ideal according to which human bodies and their parts are beyond trade. In this article, I suggest that the inclination to keep bodies apart from ‘commercial exchange’ has significant implications for the way their parts come to be exchanged. The analysis revolves around two versions of the hip: one prosthetic version made of metal and one version made of bone, the femoral head, which is excised in conjunction with hip replacements and later used for transplantation. How are exchange systems for something moving in and out of human beings organized? Who provides what and who receives what? When and where does money change hands? How are the specific amounts determined? By answering these questions, I provide a description of the exchange form that avoids assuming it to be simply a ‘market’ or a ‘gift economy’. I focus on the mechanisms that allow money to be generated despite the moral ideal viewing body parts as beyond trade—or, rather, the how the ideal facilitates mechanisms through which money can be generated without being viewed as profit. In particular, I suggest that ‘compensation’ is an important example of a mechanism in need of further scrutiny.