Whose Body is it Anyway? Justice and the Integrity of the Person by Cecile Fabre

AuthorStephen Wilkinson
Publication Date01 Mar 2009
Cecile Fabre,Whose Body is it Anyway? Justice and the Integrityof the Person,
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, 232 pp, hb d42.00.
At the heart of this book is the conditional claim that if (as is widely believed)
individuals do not h ave the right to retain al l the fruits of thei r labour (if, for
example, policies such as income tax are justi¢ed) then individuals similarly lack
an absolute right to control what happens to their bodies and body parts (includ-
ing, notably, organs for transplantation, and reproductive and sexual services).
Chapter 1 sets out the basis for thi s claim and o¡ers a rights -based account of jus-
tice. Subsequent chapters tease out the practical implications for issues such as the
duty to rescue, the con¢scation of body parts (from the dead and the living), the
sale of body parts, and the sale of reproductive and sexual services. These later
chapters alsoward o¡ various objections to the central claim.
Fabre’s accou nt of justice contains, inter alia, the ‘Su⁄ciency Principle’, accord-
ing to which people lacking the material resources to lead a‘minimally £ourish-
ing life’ have prima facie claim rights against the ‘c omparatively well ’ for the
required resources; and the‘Autonomy Principle, according to which individuals
should be allowed toretain and use the fruits of theirlabour, but onlyif everyone
else has the material resources su⁄cient for a‘minimally £ourishing life’. Hence,
monetary taxation (for instance) is a requirement ofjustice if and only if a section
of the population is below the su⁄ciency threshold; once everyone is above this
threshold, the Autonomy Principle prevails. The idea of ‘Respect for Persons
also occupies an important role in the account. In a just society, we are told,
people give each other ‘opportunities for s elf-respect’; while individuals do not
have a right to let others treat them without the basic respect that they are owed
as persons.
The most controversial and distinctive aspect of the book is its implications for,
broadly speaking, the body. Should transplant organs be con¢scated (from the
living or from the dead) to meet healthcare needs? Should organ sale be per-
mitted? And what view should we take of sex work and paid surrogacy? Given
the viewof justice outlined at the startof the book, the fundamental issue in each
case is whetherthe practice,or thing, in questionis relevantly‘special’, or is it just a
materialresource like anyother. If thelatter, then theSu⁄ciency Principle applies
and people with more than enough (of whatever it i s) may be required to give it
up to address unmet need.
In the case of cadaveric transplant organs, Fabre argues that the organs of the
dead are, in morally relevant respects, like the‘wealth of the wealthy’. In particu-
lar, restrictions on inheritance, such as inheritance tax, are analogous to compul-
sory organ removal. Chapter 4 does a good job of fending o¡ various objections
to this view. It also contains a fascinating discussion of conscientious objection.
r2009 The Authors. Journal Compilation r2009 The Modern LawReview Limited.
Published by BlackwellPublishing, 9600 Garsington Road,Oxford OX4 2DQ,UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
(2009) 7 2(2) 313^329

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