The ethical dilemmas of tissue donation
18 June 2007
When the world's poorest sell their bodies to the world's wealthiest in the international tissue donation market they often secure their economic health at the cost of their physical health.
Speaking at the University of Sydney last week, Associate Professor Catherine Waldby said the donation of blood, ova, sperm and other bodily tissues has the potential to build strong community bonds - but only when strong ethical safeguards are in place.
Waldby, a University of Sydney sociologist renowned for her analysis of biomedicine and the life sciences, discussed how trends such as globalisation, the growth of biotechnology and the increasingly commercial nature of medical research, are changing our ideas about community, good citizenship and kinship.
Using two common forms of tissue donation as examples - blood and gamete (sperm and ova) donation - Waldby traced the history of our social relationship with biology and how it is used to create our idea of community, beginning with WWII blood banks where donation was seen as a patriotic act.
She also explored the unexpected social ties forged by the children of anonymous sperm donors, as well as the dark side of the current boom in reproductive technologies - the commercial trade in ova that poses serious health risks to the (mostly poor) women who donate their eggs.
Associate Professor Ian Kerridge, an ethicist and the director of the Faculty of Medicine's Centre for Values and Ethics and the Law in Medicine, responded to Waldby's lecture by calling for more serious consideration of ethical issues and taking a global view when forming public policy.
The lecture, titled Biology and New Communities, was the last in this year's Key Directions Public Lecture Series presented by the Research Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences.
Listen to the podcast from the website of the Research Institute for Humanities & Social Sciences.
Contact: Kath Kenny
Phone: 02 9351 2261