The identification and valorization of unacknowledged, feminized forms of economic productivity has been an important task for feminist theory. In this article, we expand and rethink existing definitions of labour, in order to recognize the essential economic role women play in the stem cell and regenerative medicine industries, new fields of biomedical research that are rapidly expanding throughout the world. Women constitute the primary tissue donors in the new stem cell industries, which require high volumes of human embryos, oöcytes, foetal (...) tissue and umbilical cord blood. Such material is generally given for free in the advanced industrial democracies, constituted as a surplus (‘spare’ embryos) or waste (umbilical cord ‘afterbirth’, cadaveric foetuses, poor quality oöcytes) whose generative powers should not be withheld from others. At the same time, among impoverished female populations in developing nations, such biological material is now often procured through frankly transactional relations, where women undertake risky procedures for small fees. In each case, female bodily productivity is mobilized to support bioeconomic research, yet the economic value involved in these relations is largely unacknowledged. In this article, we consider both the gift economy and the transactional economy for reproductive tissues as a form of labour. In order to fully conceptualize the specificities of feminized productivity in the bioeconomy, we distinguish between earlier feminist theories of reproductive labour and the emerging practices generated by stem cell research, which we term regenerative labour. We consider how historical transformations in the regulation of feminized labour and the technical repertoires of stem cell research renegotiate the productivity limits of female reproductive biology, opening it out to novel and profitable forms of surplus value and enrolling women in complex negotiations over their role in bioeconomic activity. (shrink)
The development of genomics has dramatically expanded the scope of genetic research, and collections of genetic biosamples have proliferated in countries with active genomics research programs. In this essay, we consider a particular kind of collection, national biobanks. National biobanks are often presented by advocates as an economic ‘‘resource’’ that will be used by both basic researchers and academic biologists, as well as by pharmaceutical diagnostic and clinical genomics companies. Although national biobanks have been the subject of intense interest in (...) recent social science literature, most prior work on this topic focuses either on bioethical issues related to biobanks, such as the question of informed consent, or on the possibilities for scientific citizenship that they make possible. We emphasize, by contrast, the economic aspect of biobanks, focusing specifically on the way in which national biobanks create biovalue. Our emphasis on the economic aspect of biobanks allows us to recognize the importance of what we call clinical labor—that is, the regularized, embodied work that members of the national population are expected to perform in their role as biobank participants—in the creation of biovalue through biobanks. Moreover, it allows us to understand how the technical way in which national biobanks link clinical labor to databases alters both medical and popular understandings of risk for common diseases and conditions. (shrink)
More and more areas of medicine involve subjects donating tissues to another — blood, organs, bone marrow, sperm, ova and embryos can all be transferred from one person to another. Within the technical frameworks of biomedicine, such fragments are generally treated as detachable things, severed from social identity once they are removed from a particular body. However an abundant anthropological and sociological literature has found that, for donors and patients, human tissues are not impersonal. They retain some of the values (...) of personhood and identity, and their incorporation often has complex effects on embodied identity. This article draws on feminist philosophy of the body to think through the implications of some of these practices. Specifically, it draws on the idea of intercorporeality, wherein the body image is always the effect of embodied social relations. While this approach is highly productive for considering the stakes involved in tissue transfer, it is argued that the concept of body image has been too preoccupied with the register of the visual at the expense of introceptive data and health/illness events. Empirical data around organ transplant and sperm donation are used to demonstrate that the transfer of biological fragments involves a profound kind of intercorporeality, producing identifications and disidentifications between donors and recipients that play out simultaneously at the immunological, psychic and social levels. (shrink)
This article develops a model of informed consent for fresh oöcyte donation for stem cell research, during in vitro fertilisation (IVF), by building on the importance of patients’ embodied experience. Informed consent typically focuses on the disclosure of material information. Yet this approach does not incorporate the embodied knowledge that patients acquire through lived experience. Drawing on interview data from 35 patients and health professionals in an IVF clinic in Australia, our study demonstrates the uncertainty of IVF treatment, and the (...) tendency for patients to overestimate their chances of success prior to the experience of treatment. Once in active treatment, however, patients identify their oöcytes as both precious and precarious. We argue that it is necessary to formally include embodied experience as a source of knowledge in informed consent procedures, both for gratuitous donation and for egg-sharing regimes. We recommend that at least one full cycle of IVF be completed before approaching women to divert eggs away from their own fertility treatment. (shrink)
In 2016, the Office of the State Coroner of New South Wales released its report into the death of an Australian woman, Sheila Drysdale, who had died from complications of an autologous stem cell procedure at a Sydney clinic. In this report, we argue that Mrs Drysdale's death was avoidable, and it was the result of a pernicious global problem of an industry exploiting regulatory systems to sell unproven and unjustified interventions with stem cells.
Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Donation of Stem Cells and Reproductive Tissue Content Type Journal Article Category Symposium Pages 15-17 DOI 10.1007/s11673-011-9351-x Authors Catherine Waldby, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia Ian Kerridge, Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, Medical Foundation Building (K25), University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia Loane Skene, Faculty of Law and Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Studies, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VA, Australia Journal Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (...) Online ISSN 1872-4353 Print ISSN 1176-7529 Journal Volume Volume 9 Journal Issue Volume 9, Number 1. (shrink)
This paper analyzes the transformations in anatomical representation introduced by the Visible Human Project, the first complete virtual anatomy object. By comparing the process of production of book based classical anatomy with that of the Visible Human Project, the paper identifies the medium specificity of anatomical knowledge, the extent to which its powers of demonstration and analysis are conditioned by the medium in which they take place. The paper argues that anatomy can be productively thought of as a kind of (...) writing practice, in which material flesh is written into different media as traces. Because the production of such traces always involves the destruction of the body involved the paper also interrogates the biopolitical hierarchies involved in anatomical knowledge. (shrink)