Body parts and the market place: insights from Thomistic philosophy
Short Title: 
Body parts and the market place

With rare exceptions, Roman Catholic moral theologians condemn the sale of human organs for transplantation. Yet, such criticism, while rhetorically powerful, often oversimplifies complex issues. Arguments for the prohibition of a market in human organs may, therefore, depend on a single premise, or a cluster of dubious and allied premises, which when examined cannot hold. In what follows, I will examine the ways in which such arguments are configured. For example, Thomas Aquinas' (1224-1274) understandings of embodiment and moral uses of the body are usually interpreted as, and cited in support of, foreclosing a market in human organs. Aquinas' principle of totality requires that one preserve the wholeness of the human body. In approaching Aquinas' texts, I will assume the role of a revisionist who takes seriously his core commitments, while at the same time indicating that one can further develop his understanding of the body in ways which are supportive of the sale of human organs while remaining in conformity with the author's core concerns. Such considerations will provide significant grounds for concluding that a market in human organs for transplantation appreciates the embodied nature of the human person, respects the body and its parts as personal, rather than as mere things, is consistent with acknowledging God's dominion over our lives and bodies, and constitutes an appropriate utilization of God's gifts to us. Moreover, such a market would likely create significant opportunities charitably to help others, to enhance human dignity and to protect against the serious dehumanization of current national bureaucratic procedures for organ donation.

Cherry, M. J.
Item Type: 
Journal Article
Publication Title: 
Christian Bioethics
Journal Abbreviation: 
Christ Bioeth
Publication Date: 
Publication Year: 
Library Catalog: 
PMID: 12171076

Turabian/Chicago Citation

M. J. Cherry. 2000-08. "Body parts and the market place: insights from Thomistic philosophy." Christian Bioethics 6: 2: 171-193. 10.1076/1380-3603(200008)6:2;1-7;FT171.

Wikipedia Citation

<ref> {{Cite journal | doi = 10.1076/1380-3603(200008)6:2;1-7;FT171 | issn = 1380-3603 | volume = 6 | pages = 171-193 | last = Cherry | first = M. J. | coauthors = | title = Body parts and the market place: insights from Thomistic philosophy | journal = Christian Bioethics | date = 2000-08 | pmid = | pmc = }} </ref>