The Subjects of Ectogenesis: Are “Gestatelings” Fetuses, Newborns, or Neither?

Journal of Medical Ethics 45 (11):723-726 (2019)
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Subjects of ectogenesis—human beings that are developing in artificial wombs (AWs)—share the same moral status as newborns. To demonstrate this, I defend two claims. First, subjects of partial ectogenesis—those that develop in utero for a time before being transferred to AWs—are newborns (in the full sense of the word). Second, subjects of complete ectogenesis—those who develop in AWs entirely—share the same moral status as newborns. To defend the first claim, I rely on Elizabeth Chloe Romanis’s distinctions between fetuses, newborns and subjects of ectogenesis. For Romanis, the subject of partial ectogenesis ‘is neither a fetus nor a baby’ but is, instead, a ‘new product of human reproduction’. In this essay, I begin by, expanding upon Romanis’s argument that subjects of partial ectogenesis are not fetuses while arguing that those subjects are newborns. Next, I show that the distinction that Romanis draws between subjects of partial ectogenesis and newborns needs to be revised. The former is a kind of the latter. This leads us to an argument that shows why different moral statuses cannot be justifiably assigned to subjects of partial ectogenesis and subjects of complete ectogenesis, respectively. As subjects of partial ectogenesis share the same moral status as newborns, it follows that subjects of complete ectogenesis share the same moral status as newborns as well. I conclude by considering implications that this essay may have for the research and development of AW technology and conceptual links between a subject’s moral status and birth.

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Nicholas Colgrove
Augusta University


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