Pregnancy and childbirth come with a laundry list of health risks and sacrifices. With these risks comes the fact that many women cannot physically or safely conceive. A new report suggests a somewhat taboo solution — utilizing brain dead women as surrogates.
A recent report published by the Journal of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, suggests that brain-dead individuals should be used as surrogates. Professor Anna Smajdor from the University of Oslo, Norway, says it would be possible for brain-dead women to carry through pregnancy despite the possibility of it being a disturbing project.
Snajdor says whole body gestational donation (WBGD), or surrogacy, should be an option for those who do not want to go through pregnancy or risk their bodies. The process may be discomforting but "most of the ethical problems that might be associated with it apply equally to other areas of medical and/or reproductive practice." She also compared the process of organ donation. The idea first sparked back in 2000 by an Israeli researcher, Rosalie Ber.
As pregnancy and labor can bring severe health issues, even in opulent environments with prevalent healthcare, Smajdor says shifting the risks to those who won’t be affected by them should be an option. "Whole body gestational donation offers an alternative means of gestation for prospective parents who wish to have children but cannot, or prefer not to, gestate," said the report.
"It seems plausible that some people would be prepared to consider donating their whole bodies for gestational purposes just as some people donate parts of their bodies for organ donation."
Smajdor argues that just like organ donation, women could give consents prior to have their bodies be used as surrogates. "Of course, this proposal may seem shocking to some people," she shared. "Nevertheless, as I have shown, if we accept that our current approach to organ donation and reproductive medicine are sound, WBGD donation seems to follow relatively smoothly from procedures that we are already undertaking separately. What I put forward here can be viewed as a thought experiment on one hand. But if we regard WBGD as being clearly outrageous, this suggests we have some uncomfortable questions to answer about the future of cadaveric organ donation."
Smajdor also noted that brain-dead men may have the chance to gestate, creating a larger donor pool.
She concluded: "What I put forward here can be viewed as a thought experiment on one hand. But if we regard WBGD as being clearly outrageous, this suggests we have some uncomfortable questions to answer about the future of cadaveric organ donation. On the other hand, if WBGD is viewed as a straightforward means of facilitating safer reproduction, and avoiding the moral problems of surrogacy, we should be ready to embrace it as a logical and beneficial extension of activities that we already treat as being morally unproblematic."
Controversy behind the report
Smajdor's concept of whole body gestational donation caused some controversy on the internet, as it disturbed many individuals about using brain-dead women as items for reproduction.
"Donating organs is not the same as being kept alive by machines to carry babies. This would normalize equating women’s bodies with incubators, an existence even less dignified than that of farm animals. It’s bad for society to go in this direction and terrible for women," tweeted Mara Brooks, a Heavy Sports copyeditor and author at HuffPost.
What is surrogacy?
Surrogacy refers to the process of carrying a baby for another person or couple. There are two types of surrogacy, including full and partial surrogacy. Full surrogacy is the process when there is no genetic link between the baby and the surrogate. Partial surrogacy, often referred to as straight or traditional, requires using the surrogate's egg.
Surrogacy is often used when one has difficulty getting pregnant and giving birth, with complications such as reoccurring pregnancy loss, womb absence, and more. It is also an option for male same-sex couples who want to start a family.