The Human Factory

I am sure many of you “foodies” have heard of the less than appetizing ingredient added to the long menu of strange “eats”—human breast milk. For those of you who are less than food savvy: do not fret, the milk you have been buying is likely from a cow (but I would still check the label).

This may seem to be a relatively obscure fact and even completely unrelated to the world of bioethics. However, you may think differently after reading the following article:

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/05/02/new-yorkers-sample-cheese-breast-milk/

For those of you who do not have the time or the interest to read this article…

Miriam Simun created a temporary art installation called the Lady Cheese Shop, which produces breast milk cheese, in hopes to make people think about the various ways human bodies are used as factories “producing blood, hair, sperm, eggs and organs that can all be harvested to be used by others.”

Can you think of any reason why human blood transfusions are generally accepted and human breast milk products “raise eyebrows”?

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Steve Phillips
9 years ago

Taking anything from one person’s body to be used by someone else can lead to the thing taken being treated as a commodity and seeing the one from whom it is taken as a commodity production source rather than as a person. When a person donates blood to be transfused or tissue or an organ to be transplanted that can be seen as an act of voluntary self-sacrifice which maintains the donor’s value as a person. When the “donor” is paid then we risk turning the “donor” into a producer of a commodity and eventually into a commodity herself. This applies to paid organ “donors”, paid egg “donors”, and gestational surrogates. Using a human body product such as breast milk as a common food source, rather than as the unique nourishment of a new born dependent on his mother, highlights this use of the human body as a commodity source.