Biomedical Ethics and the Law: A Critical Perspective

21 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2007

See all articles by Keith N. Hylton

Keith N. Hylton

Boston University - School of Law

Date Written: January 29, 2007


This essay critically reviews the theory of biomedical ethics from a law-and-economics perspective. It suggests that the best direction for society is toward greater reliance on property rights and recognized spheres of autonomy, coupled with freedom of contract within specified limits; and that as a result, the role of the biomedical ethicist should be diminished over time rather than enhanced. I consider applications to the duty of beneficence and commerce in body parts.

Keywords: biomedical ethics, law and economics, property rights, freedom of contract, normative ethical theory, positive or descriptive ethical theory, essentialism, commerce in organs, spheres of autonomy

JEL Classification: K00, K13, K32

Suggested Citation

Hylton, Keith N., Biomedical Ethics and the Law: A Critical Perspective (January 29, 2007). Boston University School of Law Working Paper No. 07-02. Available at SSRN: or

Keith N. Hylton (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-353-8959 (Phone)
617-353-3077 (Fax)

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