Pregnant, dead, and on a ventilator: A few thoughts in response to Prof McQuoid-Mason

Annelize Nienaber


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 Munoz 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.

Author's affiliations

Annelize Nienaber, Department of Public Law, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Full Text



death in pregnancy; life support; ethics; Munoz

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2014;7(2):47-50. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.330

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-05-19
Date published: 2014-11-04

Article Views

Abstract views: 1212
Full text views: 2961

Comments on this article

*Read our policy for posting comments here
View all comments