Author granted license

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Document Type


Publication Date





Massachusetts Medical Society




On his 10-year voyage back to Ithaca from the Trojan War, Ulysses was warned by Circe to take precautions if he wanted to hear the Sirens' transfixing song, or there would be “no sailing home for him, no wife rising to meet him, /no happy children beaming up at their father's face.” Ulysses accordingly ordered his men to stop their ears with beeswax and bind him firmly to the mast and instructed them that if he gestured to be set free, they should stick to the original agreement and bind him tighter still. Making an agreement that has as a major condition relinquishing the right to change one's mind can be called a “Ulysses contract.” In Homeric mythology, such a contract can seem reasonable; but should contemporary courts enforce such a contract when a substantial change in family circumstances leads to a change of mind?


From The New England Journal of Medicine, George J. Annas, Ulysses and the Fate of Frozen Embryos - Reproduction, Research, or Destruction?, Volume 343, Page 373 Copyright ©(2000) Massachusetts Medical Society. Reprinted with permission.

Link to Publisher Site (BU Community Subscription)



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.