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Maternal Brain-Death

48 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2005 Last revised: 9 Apr 2008

Daniel Sperling

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Medical technology and scientific knowledge enables health-care providers to maintain a brain-dead pregnant woman on life-support for the successful delivery of her fetus. However, the legality of such practice as well as its ethical implications remain unclear. The article examines the various aspects of this postmortem procedure. First, the permissibility of such an action is analyzed through discussion of other legal situations dealing with some similar aspects, namely abortion-law and Human tissue gift law. Following this, the major issues arising in this dilemma are being discussed. These issues include the moral and legal status of the fetus, on the one hand and of the dead, on the other hand; interest to life; pragmatical obstacles derived from the proposed procedure, the legal requirement of consent, physician-patient relationship and the status of next-of-kin in such situation. The article concludes with some practical guidelines for health-care providers, lawyers and other interested people at large.

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Sperling, Daniel, Maternal Brain-Death. American Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. 30, No. 4, pp. 453-500, 2004. Available at SSRN:

Daniel Sperling (Contact Author)

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( email )

972-2-5880028 or 972-2-6757284 (Phone)
972-2-5880047 (Fax)


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