Compensation for blood plasma donation as a distinctive ethical hazard: Reformulating the commodification objection

Adrian Walsh

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    In this essay, I argue that the Commodification Objection (suitably redescribed), locates a phenomenon of real moral significance. In defending the Commodification Objection, I review three common criticisms of it, which claim firstly, that commodification doesn't always lead to instrumentalization; secondly, that commodification isn't the only route to such an outcome; and finally, that the Commodification Objection applies only to persons, and human organs (and, therefore, blood products) are not persons. In response, I conclude that (i) moral significance does not require that an undesirable outcome be a necessary consequence of the phenomenon under examination; (ii) the relative likelihood of an undesirable mode of regard arising provides a morally-relevant distinguishing marker for assessing the comparative moral status of social institutions and arrangements; and (iii) sales in blood products (and human organs more generally) are sufficiently distinct from sales of everyday artefacts and sufficiently close to personhood to provide genuine grounds for concern. Accordingly, criticisms of the Commodification Objection do not provide grounds for rejecting the claim that human organ sales in general and compensation for blood plasma donation in particular can have morally pernicious 'commodificatory effects' upon our attitudes, for what human organ sales provide is a distinctive ethical hazard.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)401-416
    Number of pages16
    JournalHEC Forum
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

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