August 16, 2006

Marxist bioethics

Bioethics is like liberation theology - a marriage of religion and Marxism. As such it is anything but liberating.

Stem-cell research bioethicists are debating whether women should be paid for donating eggs for research. Nature takes a look at the debate in an editorial, two reports and a commentary by Insoo Hyun. The bioethicists' distaste for individual freedom pops up everywhere.

1. Payment could be an "undue inducement" to provide eggs. According to the bioethical literature, "undue inducements involve the offer of a reward so irresistible that it blinds individuals to the disadvantages of participating in the proposed activity." Note that this is applicable to all payments in all kinds of activities, and that it regards people accepting payments as stupid and greedy.

2. Payment is "exploitation" of poor women. The bioethical standard is that recruitment of volunteers must ensure that socio-economically vulnerable populations are not "unjustly" enlisted.

3. Payment is wrong because it introduces an element of "commodification." "Commodification occurs when market value is placed on something and it is treated as a product to be bought and sold." According to some bioethicists women's reproductive labour is too sacred to be bought and sold. Hyun rightly disagrees and says that a volunteer should be "free to decide for herself whether her reproductive labour is too sacred."

4. Payment should at most only "compensate" for expenses (!), time, effort and inconvenience. Women are not entitled to a profit.

5. Payment, if any, should not reflect market prices. Bioethical review bodies should set prices according to "reasonable community standards."

6. Donating eggs is "risky."

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