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Is the commercialisation of human tissue and body material forbidden in the countries of the European Union?
  1. Christian Lenk,
  2. Katharina Beier
  1. Department for Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, University Medical Center Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Katharina Beier, Department for Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, University Medical Center Göttingen, Humboldtallee 36, Göttingen 37073, Germany; kbeier{at}


The human body and its parts are widely perceived as matters beyond commercial usage. This belief is codified in several national and European documents. This so-called ‘no-property rule’ is held to be the default position across the countries of the European Union. However, a closer look at the most pertinent national and European documents, and also current practices in the field, reveals a gradual model of commercialisation of human tissue. In particular, we will argue that the ban on commercialisation of body material is not as strict as it may appear at first sight, leaving room for the commercial practice of tissue procurement and transfer. We argue for more transparent information for patients and tissue donors, an intensified ethical debate on commercialisation practices, and a critical review of current normative principles.

  • Commercialisation
  • human tissue
  • property
  • ownership
  • European regulation
  • social control of science/technology
  • informed consent
  • policy guidelines/inst. review boards/review committees
  • donation/procurement of organs/tissues

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  • Funding Tiss.EU project funded within the 7th Framework Program of the European Union (

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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