Against the Right to Bodily Integrity: Of Cyborgs and Human Rights

57 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2009 Last revised: 5 May 2015

Date Written: July 15, 2009

Abstract

Creating a list of fundamental human rights is a controversial project, but there is one right that appears in many lists - a right to bodily integrity, security, or control over one’s own body. What the content of the right should be, however, is hotly contested. There is a deep disagreement over whether the right over one’s body and its uses is a property-like right that must be alienable in exchange for money, or is a dignity or privacy-like right that must not be sold.

In this article, I will argue that both sides are off the mark. There should be no legal “right to bodily integrity,” marked off by the borders of the organic, integrated human body, whether that right is saleable or not. For instance, once we determine what our bodies have to do with fundamental rights, if anything, we might not be led to protect any freedom to resist vaccination on this basis. (Although certainly other rights, such as religion-based rights, might protect this freedom.) On the other hand, we might be led to protect freedoms of dress and makeup, even though these activities do not involve the manipulation of one’s organic, physically continuous human body. Similarly, the relationship of the body to fundamental rights might compel us to regulate contracts entered into between patients and sellers of prostheses, despite the fact that prostheses are not human. On the other hand, we might not find a rights-based justification for either prohibiting or permitting blood sales.

Keywords: cyborg, cyborgs, human rights, bodily integrity, property, privacy, body

Suggested Citation

Ramachandran, Gowri, Against the Right to Bodily Integrity: Of Cyborgs and Human Rights (July 15, 2009). Denver University Law Review, Vol. 87, No. 1, p. 1, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1434712

Gowri Ramachandran (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States

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