Biology Reference
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Titmuss's plea has been echoed in more recent appeals for altruistic donation
(or solidarity) in the context of genetic research. Kåre Berg and Ruth Chadwick
talk about a 'duty to facilitate research progress and to provide knowledge
that could be crucial to the health of others' (Berg and Chadwick 2001 : 320).
Solidarity and equity are suggested as frameworks or paradigms in which the
emphasis is on the duty of individuals and communities to participate in health
research for the benefit of others. This approach might, however, contradict the
post-study obligations outlined in paragraphs 14 and 17 of the Declaration of
Helsinki (WMA 2008 ), as quoted above, given that these require benefit sharing.
Berg and Chadwick give two main reasons for preferring a solidarity frame-
work over benefit sharing. First as noted above, no work is required to produce
DNA or blood:
The populations, families and individuals, whose samples have formed the basis for new
products and revenue, have not themselves done anything to make their samples 'valu-
able'… If anything, their samples have become valuable because of work conducted by
scientists (Berg and Chadwick 2001 : 320).
Second, 'the emphasis on distribution of benefits might be seen not as an exer-
cise in … justice, but as an attempt to buy people off' (Berg and Chadwick 2001 :
321). The implication of 'buying people off' is that providing specific benefits to
donors would entail the risk of unduly influencing individuals to participate in
research. Such undue inducement is prohibited by almost all ethics guidelines,
as is the commodification of the body (i.e. the possibility of obtaining money in
return for body parts or bodily tissue).
It is difficult to see how the first point could be justified morally. At first it appears
as if it might be based on John Locke's widely accepted labour-desert theory. He
argued in the seventeenth century that ownership can be achieved if one mixes one's
labour with otherwise unowned objects. In the Second Treatise on Civil Government
he writes: 'As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the
product of, so much is his property' (Locke 1690 : Chapter V, 'Of Property', sec-
tion 32). For instance, if one looked after raspberry bushes on unowned land, one
might be able to declare ownership of the bushes after a period of time. But the
basis for Locke's theory is his belief that we all own our individual bodies. Hence,
the labour of geneticists is not mixed with unowned objects. Besides, if the sam-
ples were not valuable in themselves, there would be no interest in obtaining them.
Assuming that value is only added later is reminiscent of debates prior to the adop-
tion of the CBD. Vandana Shiva ( 2005 : 15) wrote in this context:
[It is assumed] that prior to prospecting, the resources of desire were unknown, unused
and without value. Using terminology derived from earlier 'prospecting' for minerals and
fossil fuels, 'bioprospecting' obscures the fact that living resources are not non-renewable
and are not without value prior to exploitation by global commercial interests for global
Hence, to assume that value is only created through doing something with a
resource, as scientists might, risks falling back into pre-CBD exploitative practices
in relation to accessing the resources of developing countries. With the adoption of
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