Fetuses, Organs and Brain-Death

This guest post is part of The Bioethics Program‘s Online Symposium on the Munoz and McMath cases. To see all symposium contributions, click here.

by Pablo de Lora, Ph.D.
School of Law, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

One of the things that strikes me in the debate over whether a State has a sufficiently compelling interest in sustaining the physiological functions of a dead-brain pregnant woman in order to protect the life of the fetus, is that this very same rationale is not appealed to when we consider the many lives that are at stake when the deceased, or someone else — typically the next-of-kin — decides not to donate its organs after death. So, if the commitment of Texas — or any other State — with the protection of “human life” is sincere, if we can finally agree on that interest as being as compelling as to permit legislation restraining the woman’s right to refuse or terminate end-of-life care when she is pregnant, and their families’ right to bury or cremate their relative once it is pronounced legally dead, wouldn’t that rationale also legitimize the confiscation of dead-brain people in general in order to harvest their organs for the sake of saving the lives of others? I think coherence mandates so.

Actually, our reasons for such conscription in the case of organs’ harvesting are much more compelling than in the case of Marlise Muñoz if we take into account the fatal prognosis of the fetus, the experimental character of the continuation of pregnancy in a brain-dead woman, and the better expectations that we might nowadays have when we transplant organs.

[Cross-posted at Bill of Health]


2 thoughts on “Fetuses, Organs and Brain-Death

  1. This is an incredibly well thought out argument, one I wish would have garnered national attention.
    It seems that people put so much stock in a fetus as being a baby, that all reason goes out the window.
    Prior to reading this, I had not only thought about how ghoulish this was, to keep a
    fetus inside of a dead woman’s body. I thought about the psychological trauma it might inflict on the child, on the remote chance it had come to term and been delivered successfully.

    We have a great fear of death and of dead bodies in general.
    To think of a fetus gestating inside of a corps, in my opinion is unthinkable.
    It is a horrific science experiment of a mad man. Something one would see in a horror movie.
    It does not seem reasonable to me, to be using dead women as incubators.

    As a mother, a woman and a human, I have a VERY strong reaction to this case.

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