Res Publica

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 15–42 | Cite as

Is `Property' Necessary? On Owning the Human Body and its Parts

  • Alexandra George


Courts usually treat control over human bodies and body parts as a property issue and find that people do not have property rights in themselves. This contradicts the liberal philosophical principle that people should be able to perform any self-regarding actions that do not cause harm to others. The philosophical inconsistencies under pinning the legal treatment of body parts arguably stem from a misplaced judicial preoccupation with‘property’. A better approach would be to hold a policy inquiry into the degree of liberty a society wishes to grant its inhabitants. Only once this substantive issue has been addressed should property be raised as a possible method of implementing the policy.

autonomy body parts coercion Harm Principle human body liberalism organ donation paternalism property self-ownership 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexandra George
    • 1
  1. 1.Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute, Queen MaryUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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