Stories have been floating around—probably thanks to Drudge—about more women donating eggs because they’re strapped for cash. Leaving aside the possible risks of egg donation and the ethics of in vitro fertilization, this speaks to a potentially growing problem of what happens when human life — in the form of human tissue or organs — is commoditized.

I once spoke on a panel dealing with the question of whether we should change the existing laws to provide monetary incentives for organ donations. A co-panelist of mine argued that a grave danger in monetizing body parts comes from a radical reevaluation of self-worth to reflect actual cash value. He gave the dystopian hypothetical of a student applying for financial aid, and being denied by the college administrator, “Well, your bank account is lean, but you still have 2 kidneys and a whole lot of eggs, so we calculate your net worth at $30,000.” The fact that some women see cashing in on their eggs as the logical step when the economy tightens does not reassure that such a hypothetical and ironic devaluation of human life is an impossibility.