Bioethics 34 (4):354-363 (2020)

Elselijn Kingma
University of Southampton
Suki Finn
Royal Holloway University of London
A 2017 Nature report was widely touted as hailing the arrival of the artificial womb. But the scientists involved claim their technology is merely an improvement in neonatal care. This raises an under-considered question: what differentiates neonatal incubation from artificial womb technology? Considering the nature of gestation—or metaphysics of pregnancy—(a) identifies more profound differences between fetuses and neonates/babies than their location (in or outside the maternal body) alone: fetuses and neonates have different physiological and physical characteristics; (b) characterizes birth as a physiological, mereological and topological transformation as well as a (morally relevant) change of location; and (c) delivers a clear distinction between neonatal incubation and ectogestation: the former supports neonatal physiology; the latter preserves fetal physiology. This allows a detailed conceptual classification of ectogenetive and ectogestative technologies according to which the 2017 system is not just improved neonatal incubation, but genuine ectogestation. But it is not an artificial womb, which is a term that is better put to rest. The analysis reveals that any ethical discussion involving ectogestation must always involve considerations of possible risks to the mother as well as her autonomy and rights. It also adds a third and potentially important dimension to debates in reproductive ethics: the physiological transition from fetus/gestateling to baby/neonate.
Keywords artificial womb  ectogenesis  ectogestation  ethics  fetus  gestateling  metaphysics  pregnancy
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/bioe.12717
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

In Defence of Gestatelings: Response to Colgrove.Elselijn Kingma - forthcoming - Journal of Medical Ethics:medethics-2020-106630.
Reviewing the Womb.Elizabeth Chloe Romanis, Dunja Begović, Margot R. Brazier & Alexandra Katherine Mullock - forthcoming - Journal of Medical Ethics:medethics-2020-106160.
Ectogestation and the Problem of Abortion.Christopher M. Stratman - forthcoming - Philosophy and Technology:1-18.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Out-of-Body Gestation: In Whose Best Interests?Rosemarie Tong - 2004 - Philosophy in the Contemporary World 11 (1):67-76.
The Morality of Artificial Womb Technology.David T. Reiber - 2010 - The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 10 (3):515-527.
Towards the Womb of Neonatal Intensive Care.Michael A. van Manen - 2019 - Journal of Medical Humanities 40 (2):225-237.
Medical Ethics and Broadening the Context of Debate.John McMillan - 2020 - Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (2):65-65.


Added to PP index

Total views
71 ( #132,791 of 2,344,283 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
71 ( #7,926 of 2,344,283 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes