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The making of a moral economy: women's views of monetary transactions in an ‘egg sharing for research’ scheme*

Lookup NU author(s): Emerita Professor Erica Haimes



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


There are growing debates about the appropriateness of offering money in exchange for the provision of bodily materials for clinical treatment and research. The bioethics literature and many practice guidelines have generally been opposed to such entanglement, depicting the use of money as contaminating, creating undue inducement, exploitation and commodification of the human body. However, two elements have been missing from these debates: (i) the perspectives of those people providing bodily materials when money is offered; and (ii) systematic empirical engagement with the notion of ‘money’ itself. This article seeks to fill those gaps in knowledge by providing detailed insights from a project investigating the views and experiences of women who volunteered to provide eggs for research in exchange for reduced fees for fertility treatment. Analysis of 29 semi-structured interviews reveals multiple ways in which volunteers reason through the involvement of ‘money’ in this domain and shows how their accounts diverge from pessimistic understandings of the role of monies in everyday life. When volunteers speak in detail about the monetary aspects of their participation they draw major, recurring, distinctions in five overlapping areas: their depiction of the monetized world of fertility treatment; their views of the different forms that money can take; a distancing of their actions from their understandings of how markets and commodities work; their location of the transactions within a particular clinic, and the ongoing importance of their eggs, post-transaction.This article: (i) responds to calls for concrete case studies to assist understandings of the inter-relationships of money and specific aspects of social life; (ii) adds to the sociology of money literature by providing empirical insights into how notions of money are deployed; (iii) presents much-needed perspectives from providers of bodily materials; and (iv) contributes to ongoing conversations between bioethics and sociology.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Haimes E, Williams R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Sociology

Year: 2018

Volume: 69

Issue: 3

Pages: 825-844

Print publication date: 01/09/2018

Online publication date: 07/09/2017

Acceptance date: 01/06/2017

Date deposited: 14/11/2019

ISSN (print): 0007-1315

ISSN (electronic): 1468-4446

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/1468-4446.12297


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Funder referenceFunder name
G0701109Medical Research Council (MRC)