Uterine transplant ethics

shutterstock_280369103One of our SERMO UK columnists started a discussion among their peers about the recent news about the uterine transplant.

This week a teaching hospital in London has been given ethical approval to perform uterine transplant in 10 women as a pilot project. This is being funded by a UK based charity that is still looking for more money.

This will involve careful selection, a long surgery to establish vascular connections, immunosuppressant, IVF, a Caesarean if they were to get pregnant AND afterwards a hysterectomy so that they don’t live on immunosuppressants. It is thought that some women may be able to have more than one child before they eventually have the transplanted womb removed.

Being a Gynaecologist I see firsthand the trauma some women undergo – either because they were born without a uterus or required a hysterectomy for early cervical cancer. This can leave many women with an unfulfilled desire to carry a pregnancy. Indeed, in certain parts of the world this may mean the end of a marriage as they cannot bear children.

However, these are healthy women and not living with the threat people with renal failure, cirrhosis and cardiac failure live with daily. For this group a transplant is live saving or a life changing option. Clearly these women are prepared to go through the process of uterine transplant to have their own baby maybe at their own expense or with the help of a charity but they are fulfilling a deep inherent maternal desire.

Are they taking unnecessary risks? What about surrogacy? What about adopting a child who can be given a loving home?

Millions of people around the world undergo plastic surgery to look different or have a sex change operation – just to feel good and have a satisfying life. So why not uterine transplant?

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