Author(s): Morgan LM
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Abstract This paper explores recent controversies concerning the disposal of embryonic and fetal remains in order to ask how such remains came to be classified as "medical waste." Based on archival research into the social history of human embryo collecting in Baltimore, Maryland, in the early 20th century, I argue that the classification of embryos and fetal remains as medical waste can be traced to a pragmatic alliance between embryologists and state functionaries. Embryologists relied on the state to assist them in acquiring thousands of human embryo remains for scientific study, while state authorities relied on embryologists to provide authoritative knowledge that could be used to facilitate state control over nascent citizens. This alliance contributed to the development of an "embryological worldview," in which human embryos were cast as objective biological "specimens" of use only to embryologists. This exclusive view of the social value of embryos and fetal tissue is now being challenged as other constituencies claim jurisdiction over the remains in order to advance diverse social agendas.
This article was published in Med Anthropol
and referenced in Anthropology