What is the Jewish view on selling one's body parts for money? Selling organs in the U.S. is illegal and would therefore fall under the prohibition of dina d'malchuta dina, but what about selling eggs, sperm, hair, or being a maternal surrogate when primarily motivated by cash rather than to do a mitzvah?
Selling body parts is deplorable. We don’t need secular law to teach us of their dubious moral standing. According to the Jewish tradition, our bodies ultimately do not belong to us; they belong to God. This is why we are not free to do whatever we want with our bodies. We may not, for example, deface or mutilate our bodies – even if we personally wouldn’t mind doing so.
On the other hand, this does not preclude us from donating a kidney or some other organ not necessary for our survival in order to save or preserve someone else’s life. Were we to do so, our selfless generosity would be commendable, and the act would be exemplary. Similarly, it is a beautiful gesture to donate sperm or eggs to individuals who wish to become parents, or to serve as a maternal surrogate. In such cases, there is nothing wrong with compensating donors for their time, expense and effort, and for the risks that they undertake, but to provide payment for the donation itself is problematic. It raises the notion (and the danger) of the “commoditization” of the human body.
Presuming that the body part involved has halakhic sanction for whatever procedure, the money part is essentially a non-issue.
For example, if someone wanted to give blood for money, or a kidney, and it was legal according to the laws of the land, there would be no halakhic problem with charging. Is it better to make this a pure gift? Absolutely.
But there is a very strong likelihood that given the massive shortage of kidneys, and the acute need, the selling of organs, under strict controls, may become legal.
As a life saving procedure, it is actually hard to defend the law which prohibits the sale. In Jewish law, aside from a few exceptions, nothing stands in the way of life saving. That makes much more sense.
Jewish tradition views the human body and life itself as gifts from God, and thus demands that we protect ourselves from all harm.(Exceptions are made in the case of saving another life.)The selling of hair or even blood (which you do not mention in your question but which naturally presents itself in this context) for legitimate purposes presents no threat of harm: the body easily and relatively quickly replaces these products.As Rabbi Bulka suggests, a donation, constituting a greater mitzvah, would be preferable, but there is no objection to the sale of hair, blood, or mother’s milk, which would also fall into this category.
The questions of whether to sell eggs, sperm, or the use of one’s uterus (i.e., to become a maternal surrogate), are of an entirely different order as these pertain to the creation of a human life. They therefore raise an additional layer of questions vis-a-vis the relationship of the paid donor to the child(ren) that might result following the transaction.Nevertheless, Reform responsa generally allow for these sorts of arrangements for the sake of helping a couple who desire to have a child, especially in the case of a Jewish couple who are traditionally obligated to “be fruitful and multiply.”This would seem to be so regardless of the motivations of the donor (assuming the donor approaches the transaction honestly and honorably).As a friend of mine likes to say, “ ‘It’s the thought that counts’ is not a very Jewish idea.”
Sperm donation presents the simplest case, since both the procedure involved and the relationship between donor and recipient is minimal.Egg donation is more complicated because donation requires a more significant investment of time, sometimes travel, submission to medical intervention, and physical discomfort, raising the question of harm.Furthermore, the long-term effects of egg harvesting on donors is not yet known.Regarding surrogacy, which presents the most difficult ethical questions because of heightened risks of economic exploitation, emotional trauma, physical injury, and compromised human dignity, the Reform responsum “give [surrogacy] our hesitant approval as we await ‘further clarification of medical and civil legal issues.’ We caution in the strongest terms that the parties involved must not enter into a surrogacy agreement without much careful thought and counseling concerning its attendant medical, legal and psychological risks.”
In all of these cases, Reform Judaism is also concerned that the donor may be motivated by economic desperation, and would hold the community responsible for helping such individuals rather than encouraging the sale of human biological products.
 See the Reform Responsa, “Selling Human Blood for Medical Purposes,” JRJ, Fall 1987, 73-74 (CARR 133-135)
 Mark Washofsky, Jewish Living: A Guide to Contemporary Reform Practice (New York: UAHC, 2001) 238-9.
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