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Background: The bioethical debates concerning living donation and surrogacy revolve around similar ethical questions and moral concepts. Nevertheless, the ethical discourses in both fields grew largely isolated from each other. Methods: Based on a review of ethical, sociological and anthropological research this paper aims to link the ethical discourses on living kidney donation and surrogacy by providing a comparative analysis of the two practices' relational dimension with regard to three aspects, i.e. the normative role of relational dynamics, social norms and gender roles, and reciprocity. Based on this analysis, we derive conclusions for the framing of living organ donation and surrogacy in ethical theory and practice. Results: First, our analysis emphasizes the relevance of acknowledging the complex relational implications of living kidney donation and surrogacy. Underestimating this relational dimension may not only lead to individual crises but endanger existing as well as newly emerging familial relationships. Second, we point out differences in the normative assessment of social norms and gender roles in the ethical debates about living kidney donation and surrogacy. In particular, we show how different evaluations of altruism affect the understanding of autonomy in both contexts. In addition, we sensitize for biased perceptions of gender roles. Finally, we argue that challenges resulting from unresolved reciprocity are an issue in living kidney donation and surrogacy independent of whether the exchange of body parts or bodily services is framed as a gift or commercial exchange. By pointing out the limits of financial compensation, we stress the relevance of non-material, relational rewards as potential remedy.
Beier, K., & Wöhlke, S. (2019). An ethical comparison of living kidney donation and surrogacy: Understanding the relational dimension. Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13010-019-0080-9