Surrogate Brain-Dead Women: Is The Suggestion As Archaic As It Sounds?

In the world of celebrity, using a surrogate is nothing new. Both Kim and Khloe Kardashian relied on one after the birth of their first children, and Sex And The City star Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick added to their family with the help of a surrogate. 

And even outside of Hollywood, those who struggle with infertility, or who have been medically advised against getting pregnant, can turn to surrogates to help them start a family, too. Surrogacy is also a popular choice among gay and trans couples hoping to have children, where often one partner’s sperm or egg is used, allowing them to create a family with a biological connection. 

Only recently, Made In Chelsea‘s Ollie Locke and husband Gareth Locke (who have taken on ‘Locke-Locke’ as their married name) used the reality show as a platform to discuss their struggles with having a baby via a surrogate. 

In short, surrogacy is a wonderful thing, and the women who decide to put their bodies through pregnancy in order to help others start a family should be applauded. However, the recent suggestion that brain-dead women should be used as surrogates for those unable, or unwilling, to carry babies of their own, has understandably caused shock and anger. 

In a study by The Colombian Medical College professor Anna Smajdor, published in the medical journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, the female academic put forward the idea that ‘brain-dead women’ could have their bodies used to house surrogate pregnancies. “What about all those brain-stem dead female bodies in hospital beds? Why should their wombs be going to waste?” asks the article.

Arguing that “we already know pregnancies can be successfully carried to term in brain dead women” and suggesting “there is no obvious medical reason why initiating such pregnancies would not be possible”, referencing the question of ethics within the world of surrogacy as it exists today.

Unsurprisingly, the report went viral, with many understandably outraged at the suggestion, given that brain-dead women are not able to give consent. However, Smajdor’s article does in fact reference consent, making the case that whole body gestational donation (WBGD), as she calls it, could be set up in the same that organ donation is, i.e. that a woman would explicitly consent to her body being used in this way should she be declared medically brain-dead. 

Despite this though, the suggestion that brain-dead women should be used as surrogates is still a damning indication that women’s bodies are still seen, in many ways, as containers – whether they consent or not. 

“This is a very, very, very weird concept to think about and approach. It can be viewed as another careless thought about women’s bodies being vessels for human gestation and nothing else,” wrote one user on Twitter, as part of a thread about whether the idea of consent changes the overall nature of the suggestion.