Brain death in pregnancy: what will be left of the life of foetus?

  • Matteo Gulino | Department of Medico-Surgical Sciences and Biotechnologies, Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”, Latina, Italy.
  • Gianluca Montanari Vergallo Department of Anatomical, Histological, Forensic and Orthopaedic Sciences, Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy.
  • Rosagemma Ciliberti Department of Health Sciences, Università degli Studi di Genova, Genoa, Italy.
  • Antonio G. Spagnolo Department of Healthcare Surveillance and Bioethics, School of Medicine, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy.


Brain death in pregnancy (BDinP) has been described in literature as a “rare event” and “hopeless condition for patients”, who has a devastating potential to negatively affect the poetry of the moment of welcoming a new human life to the world. Clinical consequences of BDinP are extremely dangerous for the life of a foetus that, without prompt medical actions, is doomed to suffer the same fate as the mother. Modern medical techniques make it possible to maintain basic vital functions of the pregnant woman for months, in order to achieve a level of development of the foetus. Although maternal somatic support requires the consideration of specific medical parameters, from a bioethical standpoint, this option gives rise to multiple ethical and social implications. In this manuscript, we identify the main ethical and social implications about maternal somatic support, including the potential impact on the clinical practice of medical staff, and discuss some Italian high-impact media cases.

* The authors contributed equally to the work.



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Original Articles
brain death, maternal somatic support, self-determination, informed consent, foetus, organs retrieval
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How to Cite
Gulino, M., Montanari Vergallo, G., Ciliberti, R., & Spagnolo, A. G. (2020). Brain death in pregnancy: what will be left of the life of foetus?. Medicina E Morale, 69(3), 281-291.