The Commodified Body

Nature

The Commodified Body

April 24 2014

The US medical community’s view of the human body shifted in the twentieth century, when it began to be seen as a source of valuable tissues and fluids. In her thought-provoking Banking on the Body, Kara Swanson recounts how the use of human blood, semen and breast milk in medicine was made possible only by uniting interlocking and  occasionally contradictory systems of body-part or product procurement and storage under the broad concept of‘banking’.The financial metaphor set the stage for a show down between competing ideas on how the body is exchanged as either a gift or a commodity. Although she focuses on fluids, Swanson argues that the same lessons can be applied to all body parts, including kidneys or faces for trans- plant, and human eggs.

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