Altruistic surrogacy: the necessary objectification of surrogate mothers

J Med Ethics. 2009 Mar;35(3):171-5. doi: 10.1136/jme.2008.024679.


One of the major concerns about surrogacy is the potential harm that may be inflicted upon the surrogate mother and the child after relinquishment. Even if one were to take the liberal view that surrogacy should be presumptively allowed on the basis of autonomy and/or compassion, evidence of harm must be taken seriously. In this paper I review the evidence from psychological studies on the effect that relinquishing a child has on the surrogate mother and while it appears that many surrogates are able to cope with relinquishment, I argue that there are good reasons, grounded in empirical evidence, to support the view that the subsequent management of the relinquishment necessarily objectifies the surrogate mother.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Altruism*
  • Bioethical Issues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Object Attachment
  • Risk
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surrogate Mothers / psychology*