Terminating the pregnancy of a brain-dead mother: Does a fetus have a right to life? The law in South Africa

David Jan McQuoid-Mason


In the recent Texas case of Munoz v John Peter Smith Hospital, a husband obtained a court order for the removal of life support from his brain dead pregnant wife whose body was decaying, after a hospital tried to keep her on ‘life support’ until the foetus was born. The question is whether a South African court would have issued a similar order but for different reasons. The answer is probably yes because in this country a foetus has not legal rights until it is born. Unlawfully subjecting a dead pregnant women to ‘life support’ measures to keep a foetus alive, where the deceased has not made a will to that effect, and against the wishes of the family, may result in a criminal charge of a violating a corpse.  

Author's affiliations

David Jan McQuoid-Mason, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Full Text



Removal of life support; brain dead pregnant woman; violating a corpse

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2014;7(2):44-46. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.317

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-03-05
Date published: 2014-11-04

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