Bioethics Blogs

New Frontier in Transplantation

“Of all the ways to be wounded,” regrets Jake from Ernest
Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises,
setting the stage for a narrative which implies the male character’s war injury
to his genitals rendering him irreversibly and torturously impotent. Recently,
the NY Times reported that research on penis transplants would offer a possible
treatment option for men who have suffered injury to the groin in war or other
trauma (  To attempt to restore function and
procreative ability cadaveric penis transplants will be undertaken as an
experimental procedure. As noted in the article cited above, consent from
donor’s family would be secured as with any organ donation. While some may find
such surgical interventions to be less compelling than other transplants which
provide life- saving organs (heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas)
transplanting reproductive organs offers important benefits to patients.   

Uterine transplants have been discussed in the media
recently, and seem to hold promise as these transplants have been done successfully
in Sweden(
). Women born without a uterus may soon be able to receive a cadaveric uterus
in the US. Unlike penis transplants which rely on exclusively cadaveric
donation, live donation has been performed for uterine transplants in Sweden,
and in time may also be available for women in the US.

As progress for both penis and uterus transplantations moves
forward, it will be interesting to see if the dialogue about these two
reproductive systems will differ. At this stage, both procedures are considered
experimental and have yet to be performed in the US, though teams are
reportedly close to beginning the trials.

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.