Beyond the corporeal: extending propertisation of body parts to derivative information


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Jurisprudential consideration of property in the human body has typically conceptualised it as tangible, of finite lifespan, with limited end uses. This article offers an alternative conceptualisation: the body as information – intangible, infinite, and perpetual. Global markets in health "big data" – including population genomic data – trade this information. Emerging jurisprudence on source rights in this information are derived from jurisprudence based on the traditional, tangible, finite conceptualisation of the body – itself controversial – criticised in part for disregarding property rights vesting in the self, while recognising them in strangers. As such, it provides an uncertain foundation for extension to govern rights over derivatives, enabling disregard of legitimate concerns about health, commercialisation and genetic privacy, concerns compounded by the intergenerational nature of genetic information. A more nuanced approach, recognising that donors and strangers alike hold only weak custodial rights over access, use, and dissemination of tissues and derivative information, is required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)688-709
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Law and Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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