Bioethics Blogs

The influence of Reality TV on medical breakthroughs

The recent
story of the failed uterine transplant had a decidedly American flavor. Let me

In Sweden
there have been 9 successful uterine transplants. The first recipient delivered
a healthy baby boy, by cesarean section, in September 2014. Three more babies
have been born since then. Not one of the families have been identified
publicly. In Sweden the surgery and blessed
event are personal, no media splash.

Not so here in the states. A 26 year old woman named Lindsey, last name not
provided, underwent the uterine transplant at Cleveland Clinic on February 24,
2016. On March 7 she was literally, rolled out, for the TV cameras to celebrate
the surgery. Sadly, a day later the transplant failed due to some, as of this
writing, undisclosed complication. Within 24 hours
Lindsey went from the bright lights to the darkness of despair when her hope
for carrying a baby was dashed.

    But in the American way every
accomplishment is displayed for the public,
playing out like a made for TV movie or any other reality program. I’m sure
Lindsey had to sign a stack of papers to have the surgery attesting to her
understanding of the risks. Her informed consent was
probably scrutinized line by line by the IRB.
But was her appearance for the media part of that? And if so, did
anyone take the time to help her understand the ramifications of sharing this
part of her life? Sure,
chose not to share her last name. Laughable, frankly. Did she really
think that by not sharing her full name her privacy would be protected despite
having her face, clear as a bell, appear on 50 inch, HD television screens
across the country?

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.