oa South African Journal of Bioethics and Law - Pregnant, dead, and on a ventilator : a few thoughts in response to Prof. McQuoid-Mason

Volume 7, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1999-7639



Advances made by medical science are able to extend human life, sometimes by highly technical means such as life-support systems. Often these procedures prove life-saving, and the patient recovers fully; at other times, however, life-extending treatment is futile, such as when the patient is declared brain dead. Advances in reproductive technologies, similarly, have been able bring hope by treating and curing infertility. This article responds to an article by Professor McQuoid-Mason entitled 'Terminating the pregnancy of a brain-dead mother: Does a fetus have a right to life?' He examines the law in South Africa and the legal implications of the case, which concerned an application for a court order to have a brain-dead pregnant woman removed from a ventilator. Departing from Prof. McQuoid-Mason's discussion, this article highlights a few of the ethical and legal implications of new technologies that enable pregnancy to be extended beyond the pregnant woman's life. This article questions the ethical and legal appropriateness of the use of new technologies, especially in situations where such use is contrary to the pregnant woman's express wishes. In this context, the article deliberates on whether the dead may be considered to be the bearers of rights that must be respected.

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