By Rimah Jaber
At the Cleveland Clinic, doctors are leading new transplant operations with an organ rarely donated – the uterus. To ensure success of uterus transplants, specialists from both reproductive medicine and transplant surgery have been recruited.
The Cleveland Clinic expects to be the first in the United States to perform a uterus transplant in order to help women without one become pregnant, and in the best case scenario, give birth. Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (where the uterus is either underdeveloped or doesn’t exist) affects about 1 in 4,500 newborn girls. The transplant is meant for women who will not adopt nor have surrogates for various reasons.
It is estimated that 50,000 women are potential candidates for the operation in the United States. The women must be healthy and the pregnancies will be deemed high-risk. If the transplants are successful, the birth will be by way of caesarian section and ultimately, the uterus transplanted will be removed after one or two children.
The screening process is already underway at the Cleveland Clinic. So far, Sweden is the only country to have completed and successful uterine transplants; in September 2014, one of those women gave birth. The Swedish doctors use live donors, while the Cleveland Clinic will use deceased donors to stear clear of putting healthy women at risk.
Some ethicists claim that this new frontier of transplants both “falls into the spectrum” of assisted reproduction and that transplants have “broadened to include improving quality of live” for the last 50 years. One doctor, however, stated that this type of transplantation is “ethically superior to surrogacy” and carries the possibility of exploiting poor women.
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