NEW CANNIBAL MARKETS : GLOBALIZATION AND COMMODIFICATION OF THE HUMAN BODY — NEW FORMS OF SERVITUDE AND SLAVERY / RAINHORN JEAN-DANIEL
PRESENTATION OF THE BOOK : NEW CANNIBAL MARKETS : GLOBALIZATION AND COMMODIFICATION OF THE HUMAN BODY / RAINHORN JEAN-DANIEL
Why the metaphor of cannibalism?
Using money to purchase the functions or products of a human body to improve one’s health is surprisingly similar to the ritual cannibalism of eating someone’s body to take on their virtues.
As we know, cannibalism has very old and very deep roots in human history. Greek mythology gives many examples, starting with Kronos, Zeus’s father, right through to Dionysus and his bacchanals, and Prometheus, each of these being an attempt to explain the origin of humanity. One also finds the metaphor of cannibalism in Christianity, with Jesus’s words at the Last Supper: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (New Testament, John 6:54). In psychoanalytic language, cannibalism expresses the notion of “incorporation,” a phase in a child’s development when he or she develops a perception of the world by “devouring” the maternal breast (Freud 1950).
Finally, the expression “cannibalize” is often used in the trade of used parts, particularly of cars and machines. Here, we see how close this expression is to the realities of trade in the human body which, based on this image, is reduced to the simple purchase of used objects in more or less good condition.
In a word, the metaphor of cannibalism could seem excessive to some, yet it admittedly does illustrate well the trading mechanism of appropriating bodies for medicine, health or well-being, a practice that is developing in the health-care sector on an international scale.
Healing that exploits bodies of others
The association of scientific progress with neoliberal globalization has led to new realities and new behavior in the health sector, such as cannibal markets, new forms of servitude and slavery, medical tourism, and unequal treatment in the face of illness and death. The result is a slow migration away from the Hippocratic principles that have served as an ethical framework for medicine for the past two thousand years. Of course, many would argue that health-care is not like other fields, that it is about suffering, illness and death, and in addition that “health has no price.” But is that a reason to go as far as dehumanizing the other—the other who is also a human being—to the point of reducing his or her body to an object you can pay for to benefit from?
Advances in biomedicine have led to new, and particularly lucrative, health industries, and their rapid development has contributed to major behavioral changes that sometimes call into question certain well-established values that have until now been considered universal. Indeed, today, in a globalized neoliberal environment, there are markets for the human body that have little or no regulation and depend in part on the massive rise in inequalities worldwide. Such inequalities are at once social, economic and cultural and the created markets allow improved health for some people—those in privileged social classes—by exploiting the bodies of other human beings—the disadvantaged.
These new markets result in a new way of looking at the integrity of the human body, which is no longer a sacred universal value.
We are seeing the development of worldwide markets in which everything can be bought and sold—even the human body—under conditions that are farther and farther from a respectful vision of the human person. It is like a huge supermarket in which the consumers can find everything they think they need. We are experiencing a true cultural revolution, one that provides the immediate satisfaction of personal needs.
A new type of society seems to be developing insidiously, a profoundly unequal global society that is less respectful of human beings and, perhaps, in the long run, more totalitarian.
This society operates under rules that more often than not escape all forms of public regulation, even when they impact the most basic human-rights. As Herbert Marcuse (1955) reminds us: “Concentration camps, mass exterminations, world wars, and atom bombs are no ‘relapse into barbarism,’ but the unrepressed implementation of the achievements of modern science, technology, and domination.”
Samira El Boudamoussi and Vincent Barras
Samia A. Hurst
Samira El Boudamoussi
Delanyo Dovlo and Sheila Mburu
Nicola Suyin Pocock
Barbara L. Brush
Jacob A. Akoh
Rafael Matesanz and Beatriz Mahíllo
Jean-Daniel Tissot, Olivier Garraud, Jean-Jacques Lefrère and Jean-Claude Osselaer
Commercialization and Biobanking
Bernice S. Elger
Debra Budiani-Saberi and Seán Columb
Luc Noël and Dominique Martin
Alexander M. Capron
Jean-Daniel Rainhorn and Samira El Boudamoussi
“TO BE A CANNIBAL IS NOT THE FACT OF EATING HUMAN BODY ONLY, BUT TO EAT IT TO TAKE ITS STRENGTHS, ITS CAPABILITIES…ISN’T IT WHAT WE ARE DOING WHEN WE PURCHASE HUMAN ORGANS?”
The use of new biomedical technologies has led, among other factors, to an increase in demand for health care. However, for reasons that are mainly economic, legal, ethical or related to a shortage of human resources, public health services in developed countries cannot respond to this growing demand, leaving some patients with unmet needs.
Liberalisation of the international healthcare market and rationalisation of public health expenditure over the past twenty years have resulted in two fundamental changes in the organisation of healthcare services at a global level. On the one hand, some emerging countries have developed private, highly specialised health services particularly designed to meet foreign demand at low cost. This new type of medical supply has a growing influence on the behaviour of patients who are more and more willing to go abroad for treatment. On the other hand, liberalisation has allowed greater mobility of human resources, allowing health personnel in poor regions to look for better-paid jobs outside their countries. This double movement of health professionals and patients is one of the most noteworthy features of the new globalised healthcare industry.
Traveling for medical care, known as medical tourism, has recently grown in fields such as oncology, cardiovascular surgery, medically assisted reproduction, and organ/tissue transplantation. In the last two of these fields, development of medical services is supported in some countries by flexible legislation and the existence of a large number of socially vulnerable people. The result is a wide availability of low-cost resources needed for specific treatments (organs, human material, surrogate mothers, etc.). In order to meet the health needs of resident or foreign patients who can afford the costs of these medical services, human body parts of socially disadvantaged persons are rented or purchased on a more or less legal basis. Commodification of human body parts is another feature of the global healthcare market. A new type of trade based on increasing social inequality in most societies and between countries is developing. The result is an economy that is not only comparable to a neo-colonial one, but also to a kind of cannibal market.
In order to better understand various aspects of this new market and assess its implications for the future, it is proposed that an international and multidisciplinary conference be organised in Geneva, Switzerland on February 6–7, 2014. The major objectives of the conference will be: (i) to analyse, from a social sciences perspective, the globalised development of the commodification of the human body for medical purposes; (ii) to develop the outline of a research agenda based on key ideas and findings that emerge from the discussions; and (iii) to create an international network of social scientists for this topic. The discussions will be based on these four case studies: (a) the unregulated market of assisted reproduction technology and in particular the development of commercial surrogacy; (b) the conditions for organ harvesting that feeds the market for transplantation; © the “brain drain” of health professionals which reduces the capacity of poor countries to meet their health challenges; and (d) the development of private institutions that collect, store and sell human material (gametes, embryos, blood, tissues, etc.). Four areas in which the growth of this market has significant human, social, medical, economic, legal, religious and ethical implications.
25th April 2018 Presentation at Geneva University by RAINHORN JEAN-DANIEL: