Articles

The legal position on the classification of human tissue in South Africa: Can tissues be owned?

Safia Mahomed, Melodie Nöthling-Slabbert, Michael S Pepper

Abstract


The ownership of tissue samples donated for medical research is an ongoing subject of dispute. Some advocates assert that patients have ongoing ownership rights in their tissues, including an unfettered right to determine what happens to their tissue sample. Researchers argue that giving patients’ property rights in their samples will turn the human body and body parts into a commodity and bring research to a halt. The question of the human body as property involves complex and philosophical dimensions. The law displays an uneasiness in making sense of the human body in the context of ownership and property, as the notion of owning oneself (and one’s tissues) implies that persons are able to objectify their selves, and in the process become susceptible to objectification by others. The creation of commercial products from human tissue has generated very difficult legal and ethical questions that have no clear, universally accepted answers.


Authors' affiliations

Safia Mahomed, Special Interest Research Group on Biotechnology and Medical Law of the College of Law, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Melodie Nöthling-Slabbert, Special Interest Research Group on Biotechnology and Medical Law of the College of Law, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Michael S Pepper, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Department of Immunology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Keywords

Human tissue; Property; Ownership rights; Proprietary rights; Current legislation; Foreign case law; Legal analysis

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2013;6(1):16-20. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.258

Article History

Date submitted: 2013-02-19
Date published: 2013-06-24

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