Public Good, Private Protections: Competing Values in German Transplantation Law

18 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2003


Organ transplantation has become almost routine practice in many industrialized countries. Policy, ethical, and legal debates tend to center on fairness of allocation rules or alternatives to promote greater numbers of donations. There are also certain beliefs about the use of bodily materials that are often presumed to be homogenous across Euro-American societies. In Germany, however, the idea of using the bodies of some for the good of others, and the right to proclaim some bodies dead for large-scale medical and political purposes is highly charged. This is due to the historical context of medical experimentation, selection, and euthanasia under National Socialism, and the former East German socialist policies which intervened in the private lives and bodies of citizens. This article is based on an ethnography of organ procurement practices during the period when German policymakers struggled with writing a transplant law. Active public resistance revealed deep concern about state intervention in private matters and amplified the growing unrest over definitions of moral community in a changing, post-reunification society. The article shows how public disputes about health policy become a way through which societies deal with other social conflicts.

Suggested Citation

Hogle, Linda F., Public Good, Private Protections: Competing Values in German Transplantation Law. Available at SSRN:

Linda F. Hogle (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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