The architect and the bee: Some reflections on postmortem pregnancy

Bioethics 8 (3):247–267 (1994)
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ABSTRACTDo physicians have a duty to sustain the pregnancies of women who die during the first or second trimester? Physicians cannot simply assume that the woman would have wished the pregnancy to continue, nor is it clear that the state has any interest in fetal life before viability. The conditions for beneficence‐based duties of fetal rescue will often be unmet, both because sustaining the pregnancy is not always a clear gain to the born child and because it may impose a substantial burden on the benefactor. And duties of special relationship cannot readily be applied in these cases, as it is difficult to see how the relationship between someone who no longer exists and someone who does not yet exist can breed special duties. Further, to draw on Marx's distinction between the architect, who builds purposefully, and the bee, who cannot help what she is doing, I argue that human pregnancy is in a number of respects purposeful, creative, and deliberate, and that postmortem pregnancy, which follows the model of the bee, is a destructive icon that undercuts women's agency



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