You will find below a series of articles aimed at promoting specific topics in direct relation with the lab’s research areas.
 
Some of them intend to deconstruct a scientific concept or commonly used term, and to analyse it through the legal lens in order to grasp specific issues that may not be perceptible from the outset.     

 

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From Biology to Biomedicine and Beyond

 

What's in a name? Focus on ... 

 

The 'Human Body' and its 'Parts' in the Language of Law

Without any doubt, the languages of medicine and law sometimes prove to be very different when it comes to the definition of common terms or specific notions they both aim at capturing. Almost omnipresent in any lexicon of medical terms, the ‘body’ is so consubstantial with the language of medicine that it would seem superfluous to enter into details about its meaning. When called on to practice his/her craft, the physician always examines – obviously we could be tempted to say – a body among so many others, which, within the context of specific factual circumstances, needs care because it is temporally or chronically ill, disabled or vulnerable in a way or another. Medicine is the science of studying the suffering body, its current disfunctions or the diseases it may be affected by. In the sphere of law, quite the contrary, the ‘body’ appeared in its most generic version, as a simply human body. It came into existence as a general concept alluding to the body in whatever state, form and appearance, as a general legal concept which can potentially apply to any of us. Whoever we are. It applies even to the symptomless, healthy body, in particular when it enters the biomedical setting so that a little of what it is made of (e.g. blood, cells and, to a lesser extent, non-vital organs) can be donated for the benefit of biologically compatible recipients. 

 

The reason why the ‘human body’ will be focused on in the present article does not merely lie in this divergence of approaches, however. Actually, it can also be found in the conditions in which the concept of ‘human body’ emerged in the language of law, in particular within European legal systems. Noteworthy, indeed, the birth of that legal concept was scientifically contextualised. It emerged during the last century, when human cells began to be cultured outside the body, on a large scale, and when their functions and structure began to be studied for the purposes of a then burgeoning discipline, namely, cell biology. Also noteworthy is that its emergence did not simply testify the adaptation of law to the evolutions of science, but above all it was the sign of a malaise arising from that new possibility to define us, as human beings, in our biological existence - and not exclusively in our social dimension. It emerged in the sphere of law because we had no choice but to recognise ourselves as mere beings made flesh, which the older, more classic legal concept of ‘person’ could not hide anymore. And which the traditional ‘person/thing’ dichotomy, in European civilian laws, did not suffice to apprehend. 

 

Everyone both has and is ‘a body’. And just because everyone has a ‘body’ that can be physically present even without being alive (i.e. it develops before birth, it can be buried after death), the latter could not be assimilated to the concept of ‘person’. Just because everyone is ‘everybody’ in the most literal sense, nor could it be treated as a mere ‘thing’, as an object of law that we would own, dispose of, or make use of as we would want. Recognising the ‘human body’ as a new legal concept in its own right, therefore, appeared at minimum as the least bad option among unsatisfying alternatives. 


In France, for instance, the concept of ‘human body’ ...