The Argument Against Whole Body Gestational Donation

By Ryleigh McGovern

The ethical implications of using braindead women as surrogates have recently come under scrutiny, raising important questions about the moral boundaries of medical advancements. This controversial practice gains attention as it straddles the line between life and death, questioning the extent to which medical professionals should interfere with the natural course of events. The argument against turning braindead women into surrogates, with a focus on Anna Smajdor’s – a bioethicist who is a Professor at the University of Oslo – concerns regarding the ethical limits of her practice. By examining various moral, legal, and practical perspectives, I aim to provide a comprehensive analysis of this contentious issue. 

In her paper Whole Body Gestational Donation, Smajdor discusses the use of whole body gestational donation as an alternative to individuals who wish to not have their own pregnancies. She has discussed the concept of successfully finding that women are able to carry two term infants. She states: “We already know that pregnancies can be successfully carried to term in brain dead women. There is no obvious medical reason why initiating some pregnancies would not be possible” (Whole Body Gestational Donation, Smajdor). She stresses the idea that female patients will be able to give consent prior, as one would for organ donation. There is also the concept that embryos would be placed in the woman’s uterus and would be brought to term. She states that this is the best alternative to living surrogacy and argues about how brain death should be redefined. However, she mentions if brain death’s definition is not changed then that would change the implications for gestational donation. She has found, “increasing evidence to confirm the fact that pregnancies can be carried to term in women who have suffered brain hemorrhages or other medical problems that resulted in brain death” (Whole Body Gestational Donation, Smajdor). 

When looking at this argument, it begs the question where of our end point? It seems that there is no more respect for the dead and, in short, these women are going to be utilized in child reproduction. They serve no more purpose in life and thus their only purpose, should they agree to this, is to become a factory line. breaking down the moral implications of this study, first there is the topic of consent. Say for example a 16-year-old is pronounced brain dead, and her parents decide that they wish for her to have a child so that they may raise it as their own to give that child the life she never had. Is that morally correct? to volunteer themselves as a surrogate, women must be 21 years old. There is nothing in this article that talks about being against a 16-year-old turned into a surrogate. A doctor might look at her and say she’s viable for this, her body can handle it, she is able to carry to term. Where do we draw the line; are there going to be girls who are as young as 13, where most get their period, to be turned into reproductive machines?

There is also the implication that  men will not be used for their sperm to use for surrogates. This however has happened before, in March of 2019; after their son’s death, his parents asked for his sperm so that they may produce a new heir. In the article: After their son’s accidental death, a Chinese couple ask for his sperm to produce a new heir, there is the discussion of how Peter Zhu’s parents asked for permission to have his sperm extracted so that they may have a male offspring for the family. They noted at court that “without retrieving sperm from Peter’s body, we can never help Peter realize his dream of having a child,” they explained to the court, adding that this operation was also necessary for “deeply personal cultural reasons” (Michael Cook). Other bioethicists argued that this was wrong; that there was no written note from a spouse, and even the ethics guidelines for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine stated that “in the absence of written instruction from the decedent,” request should be “refused” because the desires of the parents do not give them any ethical claim to their child’s gametes”.” 

In theory; yes this could work, but morally and ethically it is so wrong; there is a difference between taking embryos/eggs from a woman who is brain dead and forcing her to carry to term a child. what’s going to happen if by some miracle this woman wakes up, there have been cases of women who were raped in hospital beds while they were in a coma or they were brain dead and they woke up to being pregnant. In 2019 there was a case in phoenix where a nurse who was assigned to a woman in a vegetative state, was charged with rape and that woman later gave birth to a child (Nurse Charged With Sexual Assault of Woman in Vegetative State Who Gave Birth).

When are we going to halt our dispute with women’s bodies? First in the beginning of the year it was Roe V. Wade, we’ve had several discussions about abortion, now it is this. Are there going to be more laws to be passed that are going to regulate women’s bodies, is there going to be any law against this study? There is no longer a respect for the dead, and while some cultures may do it differently, while they are not medically dead, but brain dead, it is still wrong to see them as reproductive machines. 

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