Who Owns You? Property Rights in the Human Body

14 02 2010

Who Owns You?  Property Rights in the Human Body

by Paul Filon

Patent Attorney

Moxon & Spriegel, LLC



Who owns your body?  The most obvious response is that you do.  However, property law does not seem to provide a well-defined interest in one’s living body.  At best, it may be said that a quasi property right may exist that provides for limited rights and duties.  Similarly, bodies of the deceased have no property rights at common law. In re Estate of Medlen, 286 Ill. App.3d 860, 222 Ill. Dec. 220, 677 N.E.2d 33 (2d Dist. 1977); Dampier v. Wayne County, 233 Mich. App. 714, 592 N.W. 2d 809 (1999); Tinsley v. Dudley, 915 S.W.2d 806 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1995).  In addition to a lack of protection under property law, the law of wills and property descent do not provide real protection for the dead.  Matter of Moyer’s Estate, 577 P.2d 108 (Utah 1978).  Federal and state law treats these issues peripherally with statutes dealing with organ transplant and anatomical gifts.[1]


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