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The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 21, Issue 4, Winter 2021

Elisabeth Parish
Pages 587-604

A Metaphysical Account of the Placenta as a Shared Organ

Although there is discussion among ethicists about the permissibility of actions on the antenatal placenta, these discussions rarely take seriously the metaphysics involved. Rather, authors resort to opinion on how the placenta comes to be and for whose good it exists. This paper takes these metaphysical questions seriously. Through discussion of the biology of the placenta, I conclude that it is a shared organ of the mother and the fetus. In an analogy to the ethics of conjoined twinning, I conclude that actions on the placenta must take the good of both the mother and the fetus into account.