A Stockpile of Spare Parts

Did the owners really donate their bodies, before they died, of their own free will?

The sellers are either very poor or very naive, and the buyers are people who have hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay them. Usually a "donation" from a living person (that is, the sale of a kidney ) costs approximately $200,000. The seller himself generally gets about $5,000 at most, and in China it is generally even less than that. There one can see notices that read: "Donate a kidney and get an iPad."

This merely proves that the cheap part of the deal, the almost negligible part, is the person because the body and blood of a poor person are worth less than those of a rich one. This is piggish capitalism at its worst.

I give my wholehearted support to the right of homosexuals to become parents in any way possible and in particular through the use of donors' eggs and the help of surrogate mothers. In Tel Aviv it is already quite common to see a pair of fathers pushing a stroller with a baby or a set of twins. Typically, the twins were born of the eggs of a donor, one of which was fertilized by the sperm of one father, and the other, by the sperm of the other father.

Most people prefer to buy eggs from an American donor (despite the fact that in Third World countries it is possible to obtain them for much less ). The problem arises with issue of the surrogate mother. She is usually an Indian woman because in India the price is 50 percent less than in the United States or South Africa, and the womb itself has no influence on the genetic makeup or future characteristics of the embryo.

I have seen happy Indian couples on television. The husband is happy because he has something to sell - his wife. And she is happy because after she undergoes hormonal treatment (which is not particularly pleasant ) and serves as a womb to rent for nine months, she will be able to buy a home for her family. And if she is successful at giving birth to twins, she may even be able to add a porch. It is possible to claim that everyone has the right to work with what he or she has, and that this is a legitimate way to earn money. But that is precisely the kind of reasoning that can justify other kinds of trading in humans.

A petition has been presented to the High Court of Justice asking it to ban the "Bodies" exhibition, now showing in Tel Aviv, which includes a display of preserved bodies and body parts. The claim is that some of the exhibits may have originated in China, a country known to trade in the organs of the dead and living. Beijing, which imposes the death penalty, enables organs to be removed from the bodies of those sentenced to death.

Without relating to the question of whether or not the exhibition should be allowed, it seems to me that the moral basis of the petition is justified. But perhaps the petition should have been submitted by the human rights organizations. The time has come for them to wage a fight to the finish against turning a human body into so widespread a consumer product that no one - other than the one lawyer who submitted the petition - even asks what the source is of these "exhibits." No one asks whether indeed the owners donated their bodies, before their deaths, of their own free will for artistic purposes - or whether perhaps these are people who were put to death or died of natural causes in China where the government considers its citizens to be profitable assets.

On the other hand, perhaps it is right to continue showing the exhibition so that we can see how poverty on the one hand, and capitalism on the other, is likely to turn all of us into a stockpile of spare parts for the rich - or into curators of exhibitions.