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New Cannibal Markets

Jean-Daniel Rainhorn
Samira El Boudamoussi

Part 1. Trading in the Human Body

The Value of Life: Religions and Commodification

Samira El Boudamoussi

Texte intégral

“The Roman Catholic Church reacted negatively to the announcement that the Nobel Prize for Medicine had been awarded to Robert G. Edwards. Thirty-three years ago, Cardinal Albino Luciani, on the eve of his election to become Pope, stated that, whereas progress is certainly a beautiful thing, mankind has not always benefited from progress.” (Benagiano, Carrara, and Filippi 2011)

1Religious considerations are usually evoked in debates about science and technology and, more particularly, in those about the use and applications of innovative medical technologies (Ahmad 2011; Hamdy 2010; Hamdy 2013). Because of the issues raised regarding the human body, life and death, human reproduction, and human suffering, among many others, religious instances are often expected to take clear positions (e.g., debates on brain death and organ donation in Egypt [Hamdy 2010], Israel [Scheper-Hughes 2004], and Malaysia [MOH Malaysia and JAKIM 2011]). Moreover, people seek religion guidance and support in their decision-making (e.g., saving the life of a loved one or donating the organ of a family member, etc.), sometimes before the decision is made and at other times afterwards.

2For all these reasons, and because religion has always been one of the components of human societies, this article explores the positions of some major world religions regarding the issues related to the growing commercialization of the human body and body parts for medical and health purposes. It focuses on the issues raised by four case studies: (1) selling and purchasing organs for transplantation, (2) renting wombs of surrogate mothers, (3) the human-product banking industry, and (4) looting brains in health-care sector.

3If some positions such as those of Sunni Islam, Catholic Christianity, and Judaism, are made public and thus widely discussed (Fortier 2010; Inhorn, Patrizio and Serour 2010; Silber 2010; Ahmad 2011; Benagiano, Carrara, and Filippi 2011; Ghaly 2012), the positions of other major world religions remain less present in the literature or at least less known. Furthermore, those positions may concentrate more on specific issues of each case study than the general issue of trading with a human body part or putting a price on it.

Methodological aspects

4This paper presents the views reported by one representative from each of six major world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholic Christianity, Protestant Christianity, Judaism, and Sunni Islam. All representatives were selected among high-level theologians or religious clerics (priest, reverend, rabbi) in Germany and according to their knowledge of the religion they represent, their interest in the four case studies of commodification of the human body, and their willingness to be interviewed or provide their answers in writing. Beforehand, potential respondents received a brief description of the topic along with the main questions of the interview protocol.

5The objective of the interviews conducted with the selected theologians and clerics was to explore the religious points of view of the six selected religions regarding the commercialization of the human body and body parts for medical and health purposes. Thus, a semistructured interview made of five items was used. The first item included questions about the religion of the interviewee, its main values, and principles. The other four items included questions about the four case studies chosen to illustrate the commercialization of the human body and body parts for medical and health purposes. Those questions and subquestions intended to grasp the positions of each religion about the following topics:

  1. The selling and purchasing of organs (for transplantation)
  2. The renting of wombs for surrogacy
  3. The human-product banking industry
  4. The looting of brains in health-care sector from poor to rich countries

6In total, four personal interviews were conducted while two representatives accepted to send their answers in writing (Table 1).

Table 1. Information about the interviewees





Priest of the Hindu Temple in Cologne, Germany.

Personal interview conducted in English at the Hindu Temple in Cologne.


Buddhist teacher and director of a spiritual center, active in the German Buddhist Union and European Buddhist Union. Author of a book on mindfulness in Buddhism: In Achtsamkeit zueinander finden: Die buddhistische Sprache der Liebe. Diederichs Verlag. 2006.

Personal interview conducted in German, Cologne, Germany.

Protestant Christianity

Reverend and preacher at Landeskirchenamt Rheinland (Office of Churches of the Rhineland), Düsseldorf, Germany.

Reverend and preacher contacted via the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD), which is a federation of 22 Lutheran, United Protestant, and Reformed Protestant regional church bodies in Germany. Personal interview conducted in English, at the Landeskirchenamt Rhineland (Office of Churches of the Rhineland), Düsseldorf.

Catholic Christianity

Chair Professor of Catholic Moral Theology, University of Tübingen.

Written answers in German.


Rabbi and cofounder of Tzohar, an organization of modern orthodox rabbis in Israel.

Written answers in Hebrew (accompanied with English translation).

Sunni Islam

Professor of Islamic theology, University of Tübingen, Germany.

Personal interview conducted in French, in Cologne, Germany.

7It is clear that each of the selected religions should be considered as a spectrum of divisions with respect to a wide range of issues. The positions regarding the commercialization of the human body may differ even within what is traditionally known as the same school of thought. This paper will focus on comparing the interreligious views—and not the intrareligious ones—based on the positions expressed by one interviewee per religion. Therefore, it would be interesting to conduct more interviews in the future in order to capture the internal tensions and compare the different views within each religion.

The human body from a religious perspective

8In all world and tribal religions, the human being occupies a central place. From a religious point of view, the human being is generally perceived as made of a body and a soul (Figure 1), but other elements are also considered, such as the spirit, the mind, or the self (Ben Ammar 2010).

9Each of these concepts alone is the subject of an extensive literature in various fields (philosophy, theology, medical anthropology, etc.). However, the human body represents a key notion when considering the religious views regarding its commercialization.

Figure 1. Conceptual elements of the human being from a religious perspective

Figure 1. Conceptual elements of the human being from a religious perspective
  • 1 Priest of the Hindu Temple in Cologne, personal interview conducted on 17 November 2013.

10The human body in Hinduism, for example, represents a structure and a façade for the soul.1 So while the body begins with birth and ends with death, the soul has no beginning and no end following the path of reincarnation (Bowker 2000).

11In monotheistic religions, the soul has generally a beginning and a worldly end (Bowker 2000). However, contrary to Judaism and Christianity, a clear distinction is made in Islam between the body and the soul. The soul in Islam may be understood as the equivalent of “life,” and it is also believed that the soul is individual and that resurrection involves both the body and soul (Ben Ammar 2010).

12In Buddhism, the human being is believed to be made of five aggregates called skandhas: one material and physical skandha, which may be equated to the body, and four mental skandhas: (1) senses or feelings, (2) perception, (3) mental formations producing the character, and (4) awareness or consciousness (Encyclopædia Britannica).

13Two main categories of conceptions of the human body resulted from the interviews. The first category will be referred to as “my body does not belong to me,” and the second one as “my body belongs to me but not exclusively.

14” The first perception of “my body does not belong to me” was identified in the discourses of both respondents representing Buddhism and Sunni Islam, with two main differences. First, the Buddhist interviewee pointed out that “the body is not individual, but belongs to the community, the ancestors and the cosmos.” He linked his statement with the Buddhist belief that “all things are related to each other and everything interacts with everything.” Second, the Sunni Islam interviewee insisted on the fact that Sunni Islam represents a plurality of views and that the perception of “my body does not belong to me” exists within some of those views.

15The second perception of “my body belongs to me but not exclusively” is present in all monotheistic religions as well as in Hinduism. According to the respondents representing the four monotheistic religions (Catholic and Protestant Christianity, Judaism and Sunni Islam), it is believed that the body is a creation of God and, therefore, belongs to the person (who has the right of self-determination) but also to God. It is important to note though how the same perception may be used for different purposes as it has been the case with the dead organ donation debate in Egypt (Hamdy 2010).

16In Hinduism, there is no such concept of creation, the human being is part of an endless process of rebirths with no beginning and no end, and the body belongs to the person first and then to the family and the community.

17Both categories of conceptions of the human body from a religious perspective are not compatible with some modern perceptions in which the human body is perceived as a property of the individual (Goodwin 2006). The religious perspectives seem to put limits to this right by insisting on two main values: responsibility and respect.

18Except for Hinduism, in which the human body is considered as “a structure and a façade for the soul,” both perceptions—“my body does not belong to me” and “my body belongs to me but not exclusively”—lead to two main conclusions. On the one hand, the human being has the responsibility of taking care of his own body and must show respect for his body and the body of other human beings because—as stated by both the Jewish rabbi and the Protestant reverend—they are “created as an image of God.” On the other hand, according to the Sunni Islam interviewee, in those conceptions of Sunni Islam in which the body does not belong to anybody, it is believed that the individual has only a limited right to use or modify his body, but he has the obligation (responsibility) to take care of it and preserve its integrity.

Commercializing the body: religious perspectives

Selling and purchasing of organs

19Since the 1980s, the clinical introduction of cyclosporine as an immunosuppressive agent has contributed to a substantial increase in the success rate of organ transplantations (Rubin et al. 1999; Graeb et al. 2004). As transplantation became one of the components of health systems in various countries (WHO 2003), the demand in solid organs such as lungs, hearts, livers, and kidneys increased considerably (Shimazono 2007; WHO 2003), while legislations about organ procurement and allocation did not immediately follow and the number of patients on waiting lists continued to increase.

20If the lack of legal frameworks or their delayed implementation contributed to the development of black markets of organs in various countries, poverty, vulnerability, and destitution are generally social determinants of the commercialization of organs obtained from living “donors” across a variety of contexts (Budiani-Saberi and Golden 2009).

21In this context and with respect to the commercialization of organs for transplantation purposes, a distinction has been made between the religious views regarding the selling of organs and those regarding their purchase by patients in need of a transplant.

Religions on selling organs for transplantation

22Based on the analysis of the interviews and written answers, three positions were identified in regard to the selling of organs for transplantation:

  • A “Yes” position, which means that the selling of organs is allowed or that there is no religious considerations that stand against it.
  • A “No” position, which means that a given religion is categorically and explicitly against the selling of organs for transplantation.
  • A “Yes and No” position, which means that there is no clear/categorical religious position.

23The “Yes” position was identified in the case of Hinduism. As will be shown in the other case studies as well, the general position of the Hindu priest was that the religion has no opinion about these issues and that it is up to individuals to decide for themselves. According to the priest, “Everything has a reason, and one should go on with this reason. Perhaps because we believe in reincarnation, one may think that perhaps in their last life they had done something so they have to donate this part of their body.”

24This means that the selling of organs is not clearly forbidden or at least that there is nothing in Hindu religion that prevents it.

25This is not the case of Sunni Islam and Catholic Christianity, in which both interviewees confirmed that a “No” position exists within each of these religions, and this position is clear and categorical. One of the main differences is that the Catholic position is endorsed by the Catholic Church, while in the case of Sunni Islam this is the theological point of view that was widely agreed upon and adopted by the ethical committees in various Muslim countries despite other controversial positions expressed by some muftis or Muslim scholars (Fortier 2010; Hamdy 2010).

26Finally, the “Yes and No” position was formulated in the case of Protestant Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism, with main differences in the underlying concerns. First, the Protestant reverend confirmed that she “could not consider someone who sells his organs as a sinner,” but that “it is known that they would do that only to find a way out of poverty.” Second, the Buddhist interviewee was also concerned by the fact that people would sell only because they need money. But, as a “free mind” and “against the institutionalization of Buddhism at least in Europe,” he considered that there should be no “institutional” position because, according to him: “the issue is… too complex to address it with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It is something that is already happening, so if we say ‘no,” it would still be happening undercover, and that is not what we want.”

27Third, according to the Jewish rabbi, this question is very controversial within the Jewish religious world, because some think that the possibility of selling increases the supply of life-saving organs. And, thus, there is no Jewish consensus in this area.

Religions on purchasing organs for transplantation

28The Hindu priest’s position regarding the purchase of organs for transplantation was the same as with respect to the selling of them, while the Jewish rabbi affirmed that a sick person may buy an organ in order to save his life.

29In both Catholic and Protestant Christianity, the interviewees referred to “the official position” which is that “any transaction between the donor and receiver of an organ is categorically forbidden.”

30In the case of Sunni Islam and Buddhism, both interviewees reported that there is no clear position in this regard, mainly because the obligation to save one’s life is counterweighed by other serious concerns.

Individual and social concerns

31Despite the different views reported in relation to the selling and purchasing of organs for transplantation, the interviewees expressed various concerns. These could be grouped in two categories: individual concerns and social concerns.

32The individual concerns are mainly related to the notions of responsibility and respect—as discussed above in regard to the conceptions of the human body—as well as to the limited lifespan of human beings and the exploitation of the needy and desperate. Below are some comments that illustrate those three concerns:

  • The person should be respected as an image of God.” (Protestant reverend)
  • We are not a perfect creation and have a limited length of life.” (Protestant reverend)
  • Human beings should live as long as God wants and that is a question of faith…” (Sunni Islam theologian)
  • We should ask this question: Are these people [who sell their organs] just desperate because no one could help them and how could we help them otherwise?” (Buddhist teacher)

33The second category of concerns regarding the commercialization of organs includes social issues such as the notion of “social equilibrium” mentioned by the Sunni Islam theologian or “social inequalities” as it was named by the Protestant reverend and the Jewish rabbi. The issue of commodifying everything including the human body was very present in the discourses of almost all interviewees, with the exception of the Hindu priest. All interviewees questioned the current culture, ideology, and worldview, which are those of an “economized, industrialized, politicized and moralizing society.”

34In the words of the Buddhist teacher: “In our society everything has been economized. You even buy the time you talk to someone… that is horrible, and I would like that such process be stopped not only in regard to the human body, which for a long time has not been the end anymore.”

Renting wombs and surrogacy

35Following the birth of the first “test-tube baby” in the United Kingdom in 1978, in vitro fertilization (IVF) technology began to be used in other countries such as Australia (1980), the United States (1981), France, Sweden, and Austria (1982) (IVF Worldwide 2012). The IVF technique consists of inseminating oocytes in the lab, thus outside the woman’s body, and transferring the resulting embryo (ET), once formed, into the uterus. This technique is generally used in the case of infertile couples and offers various possibilities such as (1) using gametes from the same couple, (2) using the woman’s ovum and donated sperm, (3) using the man’s sperm and donated ova, or (4) using donated sperm and ova. The resulting embryo may be transferred into (A) the woman’s uterus or (B) the uterus of a third-party woman called a “surrogate mother.” All scenarios are grouped under the name of assisted reproductive technology (ART). When there is a monetary transaction between the “commissioning parents” and the “surrogate mother,” the expression “renting wombs” is often used (Guillarme 2003).

Religions on renting wombs

36When questioned about “womb rental,” the six interviewees made no distinction in their views concerning being a surrogate mother and paying for a surrogate arrangement. Four categories of positions were identified: A “Yes” position, a “Yes with conditions” position, a “No” position, and a “Yes and No” position.

37The Hindu priest expressed a “Yes” position (“It is the same answer as before: if they want to do this they can do it”), adding two key remarks. First, the Hindu religion seems to rely on individuals’ freedom and responsibility to decide for themselves: “It’s up to the individuals to decide if they want to do it or not.” Second, the Hindu religion is based on ancient texts and “old people may not agree with the way younger people do things.” The Hindu priest added, “In the world of new science… this is the way of getting pregnant.”

38The “Yes with conditions” position is identified within the views of the Jewish rabbi, who affirmed that commercial surrogacy is “a very complex issue due to the considerable importance that Judaism attributes to family, children, and parents.” Although “the Jewish religion is not ‘passionate’ about surrogacy,” it is allowed for married couples, provided that the surrogate mother receives fair treatment and fair pay.

39Surrogacy is categorically forbidden (the “No” position) in Sunni Islam and in both Catholic and Protestant Christianity. The interviewees agreed, however, that this position held by the religious entities may often not correspond to the reality and individual practices.

40In the case of Buddhism, there is no clear “official” position regarding this issue (“Yes and No” position). The Buddhist interviewee showed deep concern with respect to the “whole concept,” as he said, of paying money to have a child, going through the process of pregnancy and then giving away the child. He wondered if it is not indeed a question of “too much greed from both sides: commending couples and surrogates.”

Individual and social concerns

41Beyond the different religious positions about commercial surrogacy, the interviewees expressed similar individual and social concerns.

42The individual concerns are mainly related to the notion of “greed” (Buddhism), the welfare (physical and biological) of the mother and child (Buddhism and Sunni Islam), as well as to the notions of family, social, and biological parenthood, which are particularly relevant within the three monotheistic religions as shown in the following statements:

  • Human beings are conceived to reproduce, but the notion of ‘nassab’ [which can be translated as ‘familial descendants or lineage’] is a real issue in Islam.” (Sunni Islam theologian)
  • The Catholic Church rejects any kind of surrogacy categorically, because it undermines the unity of biological and social parenthood.” (Professor of Catholic moral theology)
  • Judaism has a special position about the importance of knowing who the father is and who the mother is… Special attention is given to the determination of who should be considered the mother of the child according to Jewish law.” (Jewish rabbi)

43With respect to the social concerns, both the Buddhist interviewee and the Sunni Islam theologian once again questioned the cultural, social, and economic models of current societies leading to the issues of commodification of children and of women and their reproductive capacities. Commodification issues are also mentioned by the interviewees representing Catholic and Protestant Christianity:

  • From a religious viewpoint, the state should take care of its citizens in a way that would not drive them to work with their bodies.” (Sunni Islam theologian)
  • “[Surrogacy is] usually based on the exploitation of poor women who offer this ‘service’ only to escape poverty.” (Professor of Catholic moral theology)
  • It’s not looking at the person, but to her possibilities of fertility. So, it’s making an object of this woman, and one should respect this woman as a subject.” (Protestant reverend)

The human-product banking industry

44The most known banks of human products are the banks of blood and blood products (Tissot et al., in this book). In recent years, with the development of sophisticated storage techniques, a wide range of applications and derived medications, private institutions are multiplying in many countries with the aim of collecting, storing and selling human material (e. g., stem cells, tissues, reproductive cells, embryos, etc.). The development of a global trade of these products of human origin raises key issues in the realms of ethics, legislation and international regulation (Pirnay, in this book).

Religions on human-product banking

45Regarding the issues related to the procurement, storage, and selling of products of human origin (e.g., blood, tissues, gametes, cells, etc.), three categories of religious positions are identified: “Yes with conditions,” “No Opinion,” and “Yes and No.”

46The “Yes with conditions” position was expressed by the interviewees representing the three monotheistic religions, all of whom agreed that such banks are allowed, provided that they not be profit driven, that they serve to save lives or provide therapeutic services, and that there is equal and affordable access for all citizens:

  • “If it is to help people—and you would need to find a good way to handle this, with the related costs—then it is okay. If it is for commerce, then no.” (Protestant reverend)
  • “If the banks are well managed and are there to save lives and help us live in our risk-filled society, then the religion has no objection. If it is for profit, then it’s another question.” (Sunni Islam theologian)
  • “The Catholic Church considers the establishment of such banks as legitimate if they are necessary for therapeutic reasons and not solely for economic interests” (Professor of Catholic moral theology).

47The Hindu priest expressed a “No Opinion” position, considering that this topic was not a religious issue but an ethical one. However, he pointed out that people would sell their body parts for the sole reason of getting money to survive and “people who are using these products should be stopped… because the people who are giving need the money to live, while the people who are getting have money and don’t really need the skin or the hair.”

48The “Yes and No” position was expressed by the Buddhist interviewee, who confirmed that there is no official position about this issue but expressed major concerns about developments in modern societies: “In the past, one would speak about clean conscience, helping others, etc. Nowadays, one pays time with money and buys body parts from you! That is regrettable. However, I cannot be against it as a whole, since I do not know how many people this really helps or how many people are rescued by it.”

Individual and social concerns

49The main concerns expressed by the interviewees regarding the human-product banking industry could be summarized in five questions:

  1. Could the possibility of commercializing donated material lead to the commodification (and objectification) of human body parts?
  2. Would these banks be managed in a way that guarantees equal access and affordability to everyone?
  3. What criteria apply for allocation?
  4. What are the implications of our current cultural, social and economic models? As the Buddhist teacher commented: “What I find unfortunate is the modern economic approach because its underlying thinking is based on offering people something they do not have while obtaining it from people who have it and that is only possible through the economic system.”
  5. What impact will gamete banks have on family unity and biological and sociological parenthood?

50The interviewees from Catholic and Sunni Islam religions particularly emphasized this last issue:

  • The Catholic Church rejects the sale of gametes categorically because it defends the unity of biological and social parenthood and trade with gametes threatens that unit.” (Catholic theologian)
  • These tissues and ova would be there for everyone… and that would be a problem for the whole society, because donating tissues or having elements of one’s own body means the possibility of reproducing indefinitely. What would that mean for the society?” (Sunni Islam theologian)

Looting of brains in the health-care sector

51Within the processes of globalization and liberalization, the international circulation of skilled workers, in general, and health-care professionals (namely physicians, nurses, and midwives) in particular, is having great impacts on both rich and poor countries (Serour 2009; Ben Ammar 2005). Disparities in the health workforce between rich and poor countries are illustrated by the ratio numbers of physicians per population, with high-income countries retaining three-fourths of the world’s physicians and 89% of the world’s migrating physicians, while they have only one-third of the world’s population (Serour 2009). According to Dovlo (2003), the situation is even worse with professional nurses.

52Among high-income countries, the United States and the United Kingdom are considered as large “consumers” of health-workers from the developing world, while benefiting from the availability of English-speaking physicians and nurses trained abroad (Dovlo 2005; Brush in this book). According to Hagopian et al. (2004), “a total of 179,978 (23.3%, of the 771,491 active non-federal physicians in the USA in the year 2002 received their medical qualification in another country” and “the largest portion of these, or 115,835 physicians [64,4%], originate from low and lower-middle income nations.” The percentages of nurses from international sources admitted to the United Kingdom national registry were about 45% of the total number of registered nurses in 2001–2002 (Dovlo 2003). All these numbers have been increasing, especially because nurses in the United States are the most highly paid in the world and little provision is made to increase the number of hometrained doctors and nurses (Johnson 2005).

53In this context, words such as “slavery” (Dovlo 2005), “looting”—of doctors and nurses—and “commodity”—in reference to health-care professionals (Johnson 2005)—are used. While some countries are actively pursuing policies to export physicians and nurses by training more than their needs in order to benefit from remittances (Bourassa Forcier et al. 2004), other countries suffer from severe shortages with health implications for the local populations (Serour 2009).

54This section explores the positions of six selected religions regarding the issue of the international circulation of health professionals from poor countries to wealthy ones as another form of using the bodies of the most vulnerable in order to improve the health of the wealthiest.

Religions on brains theft

55When questioned about health sector brain looting, the interviewees representing the six selected religions agreed that on an individual level, medical professionals are free to work in any part of the world.

56The protestant reverend said, “I think if you look at the actual person, at the individual medical doctor who gets his medical degree, it is his right to take a job here [in Germany] or in Norway or wherever.”

57The Sunni Islam theologian referred to the long tradition of Muslims going abroad to learn and welcoming foreign professionals. However, he considered—like the protestant reverend—that this phenomenon should be encouraged in both directions.

58Both the Protestant and Catholic interviewees referred to aid projects of their respective churches. In this sense, the Catholic theologian found it regrettable that a certain proportion of doctors supported through development aid from the Catholic Church emigrate to rich countries, although he also considered this phenomenon as inevitable.

59Out of the six interviewees, three expressed no religious opinion about this issue, which was considered as “a complex issue” by the Buddhist interviewee and “a general ethical question rather than a religious one” by both the Hindu priest and the Jewish rabbi.

Individual and social concerns

60In this context, the interviewees representing the six selected religions expressed no individual concerns. To the contrary, they acknowledged the right of every person to seek a better life and better working conditions through emigration.

61On a social level, the interviewees focused more on suggestions than on concerns, such as the need to examine what reasons other than financial lead to the emigration of professionals in general. The Sunni Islam theologian mentioned, for example, the search for professional and personal dignity, scientific opportunities, and reward.

62In regard to the development aid projects underlined by the Catholic and Protestant interviewees, the Protestant reverend suggested that more should be done to strengthen poor countries and “change the whole system of structures.” The Buddhist interviewee expressed, however, lots of reservations regarding such concepts of “aid,” “cooperation,” and “development.”


63Based on the issues raised by the four case studies discussed in the symposium about the commodification of the human body, we explored the positions of six religions regarding the commercialization of the human body and body parts. Depending on the issue, we identified some similarities in the religious views expressed by the six interviewees. But, some of them also referred to the controversies and lack of consensus that exist within their religion regarding a particular issue.

64However, all interviewees expressed major concerns with respect to the individual and society. Some of those concerns are common to the four case studies, namely the notion of respect to oneself and others. Other concerns shared by almost all interviewees were related to earning money with the body and, thus, commodifying the human body, children, and women.

65The interviewees representing Buddhism and Sunni Islam were very concerned with how current societies are evolving. Accordingly, they systematically questioned today’s cultural, social, and economic models, basically referring to “modern capitalism” (Cohen 2006).

66Finally, some of the interviewees’ responses seemed to reflect a certain lack of information with respect to the issues of commercialization of the human body. As the Sunni Islam theologian said, “We have discussed these issues, and theologians find that there are too many questions for religious institutions to answer right now. Such questions could be answered in twenty or maybe fifty years from now.”

67This lack of information may not be specific to the religious realm, but reflects a rapidly evolving reality with individual and social implications that are yet to be brought to light through research and dissemination of results. Finally, the main issue seems to be: To what extent are the religious scholars and instances informed about the various aspects of the commercialization of human body parts for medical purposes? To what extent are the health professionals informed about ethical and religious considerations related to this commercialization? In other words, would a religious framework be useful in completing the legal and ethical ones? And how do religious considerations influence—directly or indirectly—secular frameworks?



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1 Priest of the Hindu Temple in Cologne, personal interview conducted on 17 November 2013.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Conceptual elements of the human being from a religious perspective
Fichier image/jpeg, 84k


Researcher at the College of Global Studies, Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme in Paris, and visiting researcher at the Centre of Studies on International Cooperation and Development of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). She earned her PhD in education from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona and conducted various research projects at the ULB and Universitat Autònoma of Barcelona. The overarching theme of her research is science–technology–society: how society relates to scientific knowledge and technical advances, and how these are used in personal and public decision-making.

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