Who owns your body?

Rosalind Atherton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The question, “who owns your body”, is a complex one. It involves ideas of the conceptualisation or classification of the body itself (“person” or “property” for example); the relationship between a person (as spirit) and the body the person inhabits (as flesh); the relationship between the will (the intention) of a person and the person as a corpse; the relationship between the person as community member and the institutions of the state (for example the coroner); and the problems of developing an appropriate legal regulatory regime for dealing with claims to bodies and body parts. In this article I will consider these questions in the context of the body as a corpse and the conceptualisation of the body after death. It is essentially a philosophical question involving a wide sphere of thought and perspectives – encompassing the legal, the moral, the cultural, the metaphysical, the religious, and the ethical. All of these are necessary threads in the consideration of our philosophical relationship to the body – and particularly the body after death. This article explores how autonomy has its place, but also its limits, in the context of the dead.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-193
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian Law Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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