Womb transplants – is surrogacy safer?

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Dr Natasha Hammond-Browning

First appeared in BioNews 828

The recent news that the Health Research Authority has given approval to a UK charity to conduct a clinical trial for womb transplants is seen as welcome news for women without wombs (1). Womb Transplant UK, led by Dr Richard Smith, a consultant gynaecologist at the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London, has been given approval to conduct a clinical trial involving ten womb transplants (2).

The donated womb will come from a brain-dead organ donor, and the health of the woman and the womb will be closely monitored for one year before an embryo will be implanted in the womb. The embryo will be created from the recipient’s own egg and her partner’s sperm and, if a pregnancy occurs, the fetus will be delivered at approximately eight months’ gestation by caesarean section. When possible, couples will be given the option of trying for two pregnancies. The transplanted womb is to be removed six months after birth, negating the need to take immune suppressants for life (3,4).

Generally, transplants and advances in transplant procedures are to be welcomed as they can drastically improve the length and quality of life of patients. For example, kidney transplants allow people to live free of lengthy and life-consuming dialysis procedures. While organ transplants are usually carried out for life-lengthening reasons (i.e. without an organ donation, many people would die sooner than, if they received one), womb transplants are not performed for life-lengthening purposes. However, I believe that the potential benefit of womb transplants needs to be more closely examined. The sole purpose and benefit of a womb transplant is to provide the recipient with an opportunity to become pregnant and carry a child and, in this particular trial, any children produced will be genetically related to the woman who received the womb.

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