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Why Startup Wants To Send a Pregnant Woman in Space to Deliver a Baby

If I were a pregnant woman, I probably wouldn't agree to an arrangement wherein I would have to fly up to space, deliver my baby, and go back down to Earth. It's a crazy idea but SpaceLife Origin believes that it may be the future for childbirth.

They describe the mission as follows:

SpaceLife Origin, based in the Netherlands, wants to send a pregnant woman, accompanied by a “trained, world-class medical team,” in a capsule to the space above Earth. The mission would last 24 to 36 hours.
Once the woman delivered the child, the capsule would return to the ground. “A carefully prepared and monitored process will reduce all possible risks, similar to Western standards as they exist on Earth for both mother and child,” SpaceLife Origin’s website states.
The company has set the year 2024 as the target date for the trip.

If this experiment would become successful, what will be the implications? And if a baby were to be born in space, will that make them space citizens? There are so many legal ramifications that need to be considered before this takes place five years from now. But read on to find out why the company wants to do this.

(Image credit: Luma Pimentel/Unsplash)


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Death rates based on vehicle failure are only part of the overall risk. What's the effect of 3gs during launch or the 9gs for an abort (the Blonsky device hasn't been used, though the patent proposes that 8gs be the high end)? Rats born in space have an underdeveloped vestibular system. What of humans? Can an epidural be administered in microgravity? How are bodily fluids handled? Is the air composition appropriate for newborns? There is much to work out first. But yeah, figuring 70 years for the youngest of readers, there's a chance.
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I do think the timeline makes it unethical. And if human space flight ends up being boring and uncommon compared to scifi, there wouldn't be much medical need for such research (unless by some miracle it turns out to be way less risky than childbirth on ground or teaches us something important about childbirth in general). But the vehicle risks of human spaceflight are within an order of magnitude of risks being discussed in elective c-section debates now, and it wouldn't be surprising if those risks decrease in the future. I would bet, a rather small amount, that this would happen within the lifetime of some of the posters here.
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I agree that things can be "less than straightforward". This does not appear to be anywhere near one of those cases. The justifications for doing it in the timeframe given seems to be 1) bragging rights, and 2) "if we don't do it, someone else will". If we accept those as valid guidelines than we justify almost any sort of medical experimentation. I see no way that this experiment can be ethical or moral under modern practices.
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I am not actually suggesting to import test subjects for research, but hinting at the idea that morality seems to be rarely based on strict risk reduction (even ignoring the issue of people being bad at evaluating risk). This seems to apply even when dealing with those that don't/can't give consent. It will reduce to absurd results and disagree with how society wants to handle children and parenting.

This gets more into difference between ethics and morality, as it would seem easier to argue such a project is unethical (especially if considering failure rates of human space flight is probably worse than 0.4%). Even then, from what I remember of the debate around the last revision of the Declaration of Helsinki, things can be less than straightforward. This is how you get differences between things like that Declaration of Helsinki and CIOMS guidelines, and discussion of whether things have swung too far, e.g. whether we should avoid risks of exploitation to the point of increasing medical risks.
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Outsourcing medical trials to impoverished countries can be exploitative. The basic principle from the Declaration of Helsinki is that the "subject's welfare must always take precedence over the interests of science and society." The medical staff at the launch site, once the woman is there, should stop the experiment because the woman's welfare (and that of the soon-to-be child) would be better by not launching. It can be possible ignore those obligations for research purposes, but the expected result must be 'morally weighty', and expected to greatly benefit the population that the subject is from. That is not the case here.
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