Eggs for sale

Recently the Chinese dissident Harry Wu assisted the police in the arrest of two men in New York City for allegedly offering to sell the kidneys of executed Chinese prisoners for transplant. Responding to those who think it is a "waste" not to use such organs, Wu pointed out that the prisoners, many of whose crimes are "political," cannot give consent. Wu should know; he spent nineteen years in a Chinese prison. "Uncollected body is possible Harry Wu’s body," he angrily told the New York Times. "Do you want buy this kidney?...Maybe is Harry Wu. ...You don’t care? You just want a kidney? A part, body parts for yourself?"

Medicine’s marriage to high technology has created novel threats to human dignity. Wu reminds us that in harvesting the organs of the dead to save the living, we can undermine the value of all human life, especially when those organs come with a price tag. Similar threats pervade the highly profitable world of reproductive technology. Medical science now makes it possible for a man to be the biological father of a child whose mother he’s never met. And egg donation allows that same child to have three different mothers: genetic, gestational, and social. In these circumstances, "making babies" becomes a depersonalized, even dehumanizing, process to be carefully arranged by contract.

But, of course, who would be so naïve as to imagine that reproductive technology would stop with the...

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