Aug. 4, 2008
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.