Paying for Particulars in People-to-Be

34 J. MED. ETHICS 162 (2008)

7 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2007 Last revised: 3 Aug 2012

See all articles by Dov Fox

Dov Fox

University of San Diego: School of Law

Date Written: February 12, 2012


The push of biomedical profits and pull of consumer desire for happier and more successful children heralds a robust market in offspring enhancement. There are two reasons that we might worry about the reach of commerce into the realm of selective reproduction. The first is that for-profit genetic enhancement, under conditions of economic necessity, would exploit the poor by coercing them, in effect, to part with reproductive material. The second concern is that buying and selling sperm, eggs, and embryos would distort the meaning, and degrade the worth, of those entities and the reproductive practices that enlist them. This Article evaluates these exploitation and corruption concerns. I use analogies to more familiar markets in markets in blood, tissues, and organs, I outline the conditions under which distinct strands of each concern provide weak or strong reasons to resist a market in offspring with specified characteristics. I sketch policy recommendations that draw on tax, patent, and contract mechanisms to regulate commercial means of genetic control.

Keywords: genetic enhancement, commercialization, commodification, commensurability

JEL Classification: M30, O14, O33

Suggested Citation

Fox, Dov, Paying for Particulars in People-to-Be (February 12, 2012). 34 J. MED. ETHICS 162 (2008). Available at SSRN:

Dov Fox (Contact Author)

University of San Diego: School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110
United States
(619) 260-4600 (Phone)

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