News that the first uterine transplant took place here in the United States was highlighted in the media in the beginning of March, 2016. In Sweden at least nine uterine transplants have been performed so far, with at least five babies born.
Lindsey McFarland, mother of three adopted boys, was born without a uterus. Despite already experiencing motherhood she was thrilled to be selected by the Cleveland Clinic to undergo the 10-hour surgery for implantation.
"We just wanted that experience," McFarland was quoted in NPR. "We wanted that connection."
She went on to say she wanted to experience all the sensations of a traditional pregnancy, including morning sickness and the feeling of a fetal kick in utero.
Unfortunately two weeks after the surgery, McFarland began bleeding and was found to have a severe yeast infection in the uterus.
The infection also threatened one of her legs. The uterus was removed and she had to have a third surgery to repair the damage to that leg.
As news broke both before and after the transplantation, many questioned the benefit of implanting uteruses in women so that they can bear children themselves.
These ethical concerns cover a variety of areas.
1) Should money be spent on non-life threatening transplant procedures?
Typically transplants are done for kidneys, hearts, livers and other organs that are necessary to live. Without them, individuals must be hooked to equipment, take massive drugs to maintain their life, or may not live at all.
While many women want the experience of bearing their own children, this type of transplant addresses what some feel is a quality-of-life decision rather than a life-saving one, and they question spending money to meet that desire.
Much of the transplant and pregnancy costs for the uterine transplant were paid for by research money from the clinic and private health insurance, reported the New York Times. (3)
Would that money have been better spent on other areas of health care?
1) A Transplanted Uterus Offers Hope, But Procedure Stirs Debate. NPR.org. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
2) The Ethics of Uterus Transplantation. Albany Medical College.edu. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
3) Uterus Transplants May Soon Help Some Infertile Women in the U.S. Become Pregnant. New York Times.com. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
4) Uterus Transplant: Is It Ethical? Healthline.com. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
5) 1st U.S. uterus transplant fails because of yeast infection. CNN.com. Retrieved June 21, 2016.