Bioethicist suggests using brain-dead women as incubators

SYDNEY, Australia -- A scientist suggested Friday using brain-dead women as surrogate mothers to make better use of 'living corpses,' but the idea drew sharp condemnation from doctors, lawyers and religious leaders.

Paul Gerber, a bioethicist at Queensland State University, said brain-dead 'neomorts,' or newly dead, women could first be used as baby incubators and then for organ transplants.


Gerber described his proposal at a medical ethics conference in Queensland as 'innovative andethical.

'I can't see anything wrong with it and at least the dead would be doing some good,' he said, suggesting brain-dead individuals be kept on life-support systems so their bodies could be used.

'It's a wonderful solution to the problems posed by surrogacy and a magnificent use of a corpse. It has my complete support,' Gerber said.

In-vitro fertilization techniques could be used to join the egg and the sperm and implant the embryo in the brain-dead woman, he said.

There is no standardized definition of death in Australia, but the most widely used method of defining death is by confirming the failure of the brain, lungs and heart.

Gerber's suggestion provoked immediate and angry opposition from other doctors, lawyers and religious leaders.


The Victoria state government's chief adviser on in-vitro fertilization ethics, Professor Louis Waller, said, 'If these women are dead, bury them decently. That's what we do with dead people in our society.'

The Rev. Fred Nile, chairman of the an Australian Right to Life group, called for an official inquiry into the issues surrounding surrogate motherhood.

'I think it is absolutely disgraceful. The issue has to be closely looked at and stopped. A Royal Commission has to be called to stop these mad scientists.

'My group completely condemns what they are doing and have concern for the children born to this crazy scheme. It will introduce little monsters into the world with no real identity to cling to.'

Russell Scott, a member of the Law Reform Commission and author of the book 'The Body As Property,' said, 'Only God knows what it would do to someone to be told they were conceived and born in this way.'

Scott said, 'Such pregnancies would be fraught with numerous legal and ethical questions.

'It violates the spirit in which these laws on brain deaths were introduced. I don't believe this is showing respect for the dead.'

Gerber said his proposal had been discussed seriously at medical ethical conferences and some lawyers and doctors had supported the idea.


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