Bioethics News

First case of deceased donor uterine transplantation. It is a relevant medical and social issue

Being able to resolve the reproductive problems suffered by women who have no uterus – whether due to an organic cause or functional abnormality of the uterus – is unquestionably a major medical and social issue.

The two possible solutions to this problem are uterus transplantation or surrogacy, the latter solution presenting objective ethical difficulties.

Uterus transplants to date have been performed using living donors, with unpredictable outcomes. Now, the first case of deceased donor uterine transplantation performed in the United States has been published. The recipient of the uterus was a woman with Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome, that is, she had no uterus.

The journal Fertility and Sterility has disseminated a video describing the essential steps in this transplantation process, particularly as regards selection of a suitable donor with no history of infertility or uterine malformations. The death of the donor should be determined by presentation of brain death but not cardiac death. The authors concluded that: “Uterine transplantation, although currently experimental, has gained the potential to become the first true treatment for uterine factor infertility. This procedure can become a promising option for the approximately 1.5 million women worldwide for whom pregnancy is not possible because of the absence of the uterus or presence of a nonfunctional uterus. Deceased donor uterine transplantation will further serve to broaden accessibility for this treatment.”

Ethical approach

For our part, as the organ donor is a deceased person with brain death (see true definition of this death HERE), we see no ethical issue for this practice; on the contrary, it seems an encouraging medical prospect to resolve the reproductive problem of women who have no uterus or whose uterus is not functionally useful, although the risk-benefit balance must always be taken into account, especially as regards the surgical act.

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.