Débora Gozzo (São Paulo/Bonn): The Price of Human Dignity in a Globalized World. On the commercialization of mankind


Since World War II, the principle of human dignity has been strongly emphasized in many countries, thereby placing humans in the center of many legal orders. The development of biotechnology in the past 40 years has increased not only the chances to save a person through a transplant (whether offered willing or against payment), but also to help a couple to have a baby through a surrogacy contract. The surrogate motherhood nowadays offers an alternative to becoming pregnant herself to a woman wishing to have a baby. Apart from few cases of surrogate motherhood free of charge, most surrogate mothers are paid for carrying a child. This suggests that humans are treated as goods in this context. Yet setting a price for a human life stands in fundamental contradiction to the principle of human dignity. In fact, several countries prohibit contracts for surrogate motherhood and other forms of reproductive medicine. Other countries, in which poverty is particularly pronounced, in turn display a certain tolerance for such cases, facilitating the establishment of a new market, where a human being, a baby, can be ordered as a commodity. There was and there still is a market for organs and tissues. In order to deal with the problem of the commodification of the human body, it needs to be investigated whether the principle of human dignity, which encompasses human self-determination and the underlying different legal systems could have been influenced by the cultural background of a society.

Prof. Dr. Débora Gozzo

Curriculum vitae

Débora Gozzo studied law at the Universidade de São Paulo and at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, before completing her doctorate degree at the Universität Bremen with a dissertation on “The Principle of Transparency and Abusive Clauses in Consumer Contracts”. She has researched and taught at various Brazilian universities and is currently active at the Universidade São Judas Tadeu and at the Centro Universitário Fieo in São Paulo. Professor Gozzo has held numerous visiting professorships and fellowships, inter alia at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg and at the University of Bonn’s German Reference Centre for Ethics in the Life Sciences. Since January 2016, she is Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture”.