Skip to main content

Biomedical Research and the Commercial Exploitation of Human Tissue


There is widespread anxiety about the commercialisation and commodification of human tissue. The aims of this paper are: (a) to analyse some of these concerns, and (b) to see whether some of the main ethical arguments that lie behind them are sound. Part 1 looks at 'inducement arguments' against paying individuals for their tissue and concludes that these are generally quite weak. Part 2 examines some ethical objections to third parties (e.g. biotechnology companies and researchers) commercially exploiting human tissue. Firstly, it is argued that prospective tissue donors should be given very full information about the extent to which their tissues will be commercially exploited and about the financial interests of tissue collectors and researchers, since this is an essential component of valid consent. Secondly, some doubt is cast upon the (widely held) view that while 'the human body and its parts shall not, as such, give rise to financial gain', intellectual property based on human tissue research is generally acceptable1


Rights and permissions

Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License ( ), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Wilkinson, S. Biomedical Research and the Commercial Exploitation of Human Tissue. Life Sci Soc Policy 1, 27 (2005).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: