ABSTRACT

In her article on ‘The Architect and The Bee: Some Reflections on Postmortem Pregnancy’, Hilde Nelson raises the question of whether physicians have a legal duty to sustain pregnancies of women who die during the first or second trimester (Nelson, 1994). In order to answer this question, Nelson assumes four different grounds on which such a legal duty might rest. The duty might be a matter of respecting the woman’s wishes, there may be a duty to the state to save the life of the fetus, a duty might be generally based on beneficence of the fetus, or one might find a duty of ‘special relationship’ between the mother and the fetus. In regard to the latter, Nelson argues that it is not clear at all how a relationship between ‘such shadowy figures could breed special duties’ (Nelson, 1994, p. 261). More generally, her conclusion is that there is no basis for a legal duty to continue pregnancy after the woman is dead (Nelson, 1994, p. 261).