Why the body matters
DOI link for Why the body matters
Why the body matters book
This book seeks to re-establish the importance of the human body in bioethics. But why is such a book necessary? Surely it is obvious that in medicine and in the human biological sciences the human body is of central importance! We need merely think of the worries about discrimination, breaches of privacy or loss of personal identity raised by the dramatic advances in cracking our personal genetic code, or of the powerful human need to overcome infertility that has led to an array of new technologies designed to achieve conception. Think further of the frustration with bodily deterioration, which fuels the search for pharmaceutical solutions to sexual dysfunction, cognitive losses and even the ageing process itself. Again, a modern obsession with bodily image has led to a move from ‘cosmetic’ surgery, initially developed to deal with severe disﬁgurement, to ‘aesthetic’ surgery, devoted to a reshaping of the body according to customer demand and the fashions of the day. Moreover, the centrality of the human body in biomedicine is nowhere more obvious than at the time of death. From a scientiﬁc perspective the human dead body – or ‘cadaver’ – is easily viewed in an impersonal way, as a source of knowledge of the causes of death or the eﬀectiveness of therapy through autopsy, or as a source of beneﬁt to others, through the ‘harvesting’ of organs and tissue. Such an objectiﬁed view of the dead body is, however, a universe of meaning removed from the perceptions of the bereaved family of a dead person. For them the body of the deceased represents all that they cared for and all they have lost. It was this disjunction between the scientiﬁc and the lay view of the dead body which led to the Retained Organs Controversy in the UK and in other countries. The depth of the horror felt by the bereaved relatives when they discovered that their child’s organs had been retained without their knowledge or consent is well portrayed in this quotation from one of the government reports on the controversy:
They were devastated to hear that their daughter’s tongue had been retained, and the father protested silently outside Alder Hey … They
describe the hospital as having stolen their daughter’s body, which was ‘white as driven snow’. It was reduced to skin and bone by predators and it must never happen again.