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Why The Pregnancy From a Woman’s Uterus Transplant Causes Concern

by Rebecca Taylor | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 4/21/13 11:25 AM

Bioethics, Opinion

Part of being a blogger is learning that people, even ones on your side, will misread, misunderstand, and misrepresent what you are saying. Being human, many of us only read headlines, or skim through a piece missing the major points, or infer things that simply are not implied. Knowing this, I try not to let reactions to my posts get under my skin.

For some reason the reactions to the news about the pregnancy of the woman who underwent a uterus transplant really affected me. To recap, a woman born without a uterus was transplanted with a uterus from a deceased woman. She then underwent IVF and is now confirmed to be pregnant.

Many of the comments I have read state that the only thing wrong with this is the IVF. If she had gotten pregnant naturally this would be fine. I also read a lot of comments that compare a uterus transplant to a kidney or heart transplant. The thought is that if those are morally acceptable then this should be to.

I guess I am disheartened that many of the comments echo the sentiments of the rest of society: the emotional appeals to what the parents want with little thought to how a procedure affects the health and well-being of the child.

Let us think about this critically instead of emotionally.

A uterus transplant is not a necessary procedure. This woman was not going to die if she did not receive a womb. This is nothing like a kidney or heart transplant. The point was so that she could be pregnant evidenced by the fact that the uterus will be removed after the child is delivered.

Since the uterus came from a deceased woman, presumably no other lives were put at risk to retrieve the organ. This is not the case with a live uterus donor which is also being attempted. To put the health and safety of the otherwise healthy woman donating the uterus at risk to provide a organ that is not essential for life is not ethical.

Beyond the actual transplant, let us consider the child that is now being gestated in this transplanted uterus. This child was purposefully placed in a womb that is a potentially dangerous place. The mother has to take immunosuppressant drugs so she will not reject the uterus. As experts said there is significant risk of birth defects and pre-term labor here. The child was created in a lab and intentionally put at risk in an experimental womb just so that this woman could experience pregnancy.

Remember there is a PERSON in that womb whose life hangs in the balance. He or she could suffer life-long consequences. Is this treating him or her with the utmost respect deserving of every person?

Sure it would be nice if every woman with a deformed or malfunction uterus could get a replacement, but how many children do we need to put at risk to perfect this procedure? In other high-risk medical procedures like heart or kidney transplants, the possible reward outweighs the risk because the patient is already in a life-threatening situation. But with a uterus transplant there is no life-threatening illness to treat. Is it ethical to intentionally put the life of a child at risk for a non-life threatening problem?

There are a lot of medical advancements that we could have if we treated research subjects unethically. Let us not forget that the child is also a subject in this experiment. Are we treating him or her ethically or as a regrettable, but acceptable, causality if this fails?

I fear that the attitude toward this child is the same as all the children of artificial reproductive technologies (ART) that came before. The priority is what the parents want. The health and safety of the child is secondary. A recent review of ART in the Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine Online, written by scientists in the field, reiterates that idea that in the fertility industry, many have a “let’s see if it works and ask questions about safety later” attitude. Is that what is happening here?

I think if we continue on with this perspective where the health and safety of the next generation is not the first priority, things like “in vitro eugenics” are sure to follow. Dr. Sparrow is right that concerns about safety are unlikely to stop the creation of generations of embryos in the lab because, so far, concerns about the children hasn’t stopped any ART. It is up to us to be the voice of the voiceless.

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I realize that the Catholic Church has not officially come out against uterus transplants, but that does not mean we cannot think critically about it and come to the conclusion that this is unethical. I often ask myself these questions when evaluating advances in biotechnology. I think it applies here:

Does this technology disrespect or unnecessarily endanger human life at any point from the very beginning to natural death? Does it reduce human life to a biological commodity? Does it require that a human organism be used or destroyed?

I have come to the conclusion that the uterus transplant does intentionally endanger the life of an innocent child simply so a woman can be pregnant. I know others disagree. I just want to make sure that the discussions surrounding this procedure are grounded in the MOST important consideration, the health and well-being of the child, and not in the emotional appeal to what adults desire.