Reproductive ectogenesis: the third era of human reproduction and some moral consequences

Sci Eng Ethics. 2004 Oct;10(4):615-26. doi: 10.1007/s11948-004-0042-4.


In a well known story Derek Parfit describes a disconnection between two entities that normally (in real life) travel together through space and time, namely your personal identity consisting of both mind and body. Realising the possibility of separation, even if it might never happen in real life, new questions arise that cast doubt on old solutions. In human reproduction, in real life, at present the fetus spends approximately nine months inside the pregnant woman. But, we might envisage other possibilities. Historically, the first era is the normal conception inside the woman, the growth of the fetus in the womb and then, after nine months, birth and the appearance of a new individual. The second era is In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). The fetus starts outside the woman as a fertilised egg, moves to the body of the woman and spends nine month there, where the body of the woman and the fetus travel together in space-time to separate at birth. In the third era of reproductive ectogenesis, the two never travel together. The fetus spends its gestational time entirely outside the woman's body. We have two entities separated in space-time the whole time. The intimate connection consisting in the fetus being a part of the woman's body is gone. In this paper I will briefly comment on the three eras of human reproduction--and primarily on the relationship between the new individual and the woman--and then spend some time with a fictional story illustrating some moral consequences of the third era. The story is from Pig Pharmaceuticals Limited and how they in the year 2050 report the successful development of pig-related pregnancies with transgenic pigs as surrogate mothers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ectogenesis / ethics*
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro / ethics
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Swine
  • Transplantation, Heterologous / ethics*