The Alexandria Plan: Creating Libraries for Human Tissue Research and Therapeutic Use

  • Laurie Zoloth


After the mapping of the theoretical human genome, and the discovery of the human stem cell, the task of collection begins, which requires the acquisition of large, representative and useful collections of human tissue. Such collection, storage and fair use immediately raise serious questions of justice: ownership, value and distribution. This chapter argues that the metaphor and praxis of “library” should be used rather than the marketplace nomenclature of “banking” for contemporary tissue collections. Thinking of such collections as the twenty-first century equivalent of the great libraries of antiquity will set in place rules that stress justice, access and a careful dignity for our collections. Unlike the term “bank” which set in place associations with markets, secrecy, competition and hierarchy, the “library” will allow us to understand why what we have in common must be held in common for us all. The chapter grounds practice of the creation of such libraries with the moral principle of “hospitality”, with its ties to the treatment of the stranger and the nature of reciprocal need, and stresses the public nature of many libraries with a similar call for free and public access to scientific data.


Stem Cell Human Embryonic Stem Cell Stem Cell Therapy Stem Cell Research Nuclear Transfer 
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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurie Zoloth
    • 1
  1. 1.Northwestern University Center for Bioethics, Science and SocietyChicago, ILUSA

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