By Maria Coluccio

In Bengaluru, a group of infertile women await clearance for a life changing procedure that will allow them to bear life of their own. These women suffer from a rare disorder called Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, which causes their reproductive systems to be underdeveloped or absent, and they are unable to carry a pregnancy. However, womb transplants give these woman, and many others who suffer from similar reproductive problems, the opportunity to carry and birth their own biological children.

In this revolutionary procedure, surgeons transplant a uterus from a living or cadaver donor into the recipient. The surgery was first performed in Sweden, followed by the United States and China. The Sweden’s University of Gothenburg at Milann’s Bengaluru Centre has approval from The Medical Council of India to conduct the procedure, but permission from the organ transplant authority is still needed.

Womb transplants give new hope for women who are unable to bear children of their own, but the surgery also has serious ethical considerations. It is a medically complicated procedure, for both the donor and the recipient. It requires the removal of the donor’s entire uterine system and involves three separate surgeries for the recipient (the transplant, the cesarean section, and the removal of the organ). The recipient also needs to stay on immunosuppressant drugs for an extended period of time. This transplant also differs from other transplants because it is not a life saving measure. Unlike in heart and kidney transplants, the recipient’s life is not at risk if the surgery is not performed. Questions arise whether or not it is ethical to put both the donor and recipient at a significant health risk. There are also concerns that underprivileged women donors may be exploited for their body parts. Organ trafficking and surrogacy are already controversial topics, womb transplantation further complicates these issues.

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