American Bioethics: Crossing Human Rights and Health Law Boundaries

By George J. Annas | Go to book overview
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12
Waste and Longing

Waste is not always what it seems.1 In his cold war novel Underworld, for example, Don DeLillo explores the multifaceted qualities of waste. “Waste,” he notes, “is the secret history, the underhistory, the way archaeologists dig out the history of early cultures, every sort of bone and broken tool, literally from under the ground.” And waste can also be transformed to money:

They are trading garbage in the commodity pits in Chicago. They
are making synthetic feces in Dallas. You can sell your testicles to a
firm in Russia that will give you four thousand dollars and then re-
move the items surgically and mash them up and extract the vital
substances and market the resulting syrupy stuff as rejuvenating beauty
cream, for a profit that is awesome.2

It is probably a rare (and desperate) person who would sell his testicles, but it also seems strange to try to sell a baby's umbilical cord blood (sometimes termed placental blood) to the newborn's mother by charging her for collecting and storing it. What makes this waste product of childbirth

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