Late last year, bioethicist Anna Smajdor of the University of Oslo in Norway published a paper suggesting that the wombs of women in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) should not go to waste; they should be used for "whole body gestational donation," or as surrogate mothers.
"We already know that pregnancies can be successfully carried to term in brain-dead women," she writes. "There is no obvious medical reason why initiating such pregnancies would not be possible."
But Dr. James Sherley, an associate scholar of public health and obstetrics for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, can think of plenty of ethical reasons against it.
"She says the reason for doing something like this is because it will help parents who are having difficulty having children on their own and don't want to use live surrogacy, or women who don't want to go through pregnancy," he relays. "She focuses on that, but the way to think about whether something is ethical or not is to look at who's going to be injured."
Dr. Sherley points out that a woman in such a state is certainly not capable of consenting to that "donation," so in effect, her body would be used against her will, perhaps at a price.
"The idea that these are going to be gestational containers, as opposed to this is a woman who's alive, a living human being," is another point he makes for the victims. "Academics put this stuff out there I guess because they're academics, but they really do the public and their field a disservice when they suggest such things as this."
He says it commodifies people and dismisses the humanity of a person, and he asks, "What kind of humanity are we if we treat individuals in this manner?"
Live Action News points out that research shows as many as 20% of people declared PVS may actually not be PVS at all and are fully aware of what is happening around them. The publication also contends that there is no way to ensure that anyone would be willing to allow their body to be used as an incubator, even if they consented beforehand.
Smajdor maintains, though, that governments and health services should "adapt their policies and procedures" to allow for whole body gestational donation, which should, according to her, be "viewed as a straightforward means of facilitating safer reproduction" and a "logical and beneficial extension of activities that we already treat as being morally unproblematic."