Bioethics Blogs

The Ethics of Uterus Transplantation

In the last couple of years, the media has reported women undergoing uterus transplantations. Just last month, the media reported that the first baby was born from a transplanted uterus. While the woman’s identity remains unknown, she is a 36 year old Swedish woman who was born with ovaries, but not a uterus. She and her partner underwent IVF to produce embryos that could then be transferred into the transplanted uterus. This donor is a friend of hers who is 61 years old and had experienced menopause seven years beforehand. The quality of a woman’s uterus does not diminish over time, so she is able to successfully carry a pregnancy event postmenopausally (it is the quality and quantity of her eggs that leads to infertility and eventually menopause).  Both the woman and the baby are doing fine, according to media reports. However, the baby was born prematurely at 32 weeks because the women developed preeclampsia and the fetal heart rate became abnormal. It is not clear from the media reports whether the development of preeclampsia was related to the uterus transplantation.

Uterus transplantation raises a bunch of ethical issues. One critique of uterus transplantation, as well as other forms of assisted reproductive technologies, is that is not net medically necessary.   Rather, it is an elective procedure, as people can live without biologically reproducing. Yet this critique fails to acknowledge that much of medicine deals with quality-of-life issues and not necessarily life-or-death issues. Infertility is a serious quality-of-life issue, especially for women, who often find a diagnosis of infertility to be psychologically devastating.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.