Medical and Ethical Considerations in Uterus Transplantation

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2013 Nov;123(2):173-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2013.05.010. Epub 2013 Jul 31.

Abstract

Transplanting a uterus has unique characteristics, since a successful outcome is represented only by the birth of a viable healthy child. For this reason, critical issues in this type of transplantation differ profoundly from those of other solid organs and, beside a functioning uterus, involve 3 additional steps. First, at the time of implantation, the quality of embryo is tested by specialized decidual cells surrounding the implanting embryo; such testing is aimed at allowing the development of a normal embryo. Second, from early gestation onward, blood supply to the uterus increases from 45 to 750mL per minute. Vascular anastomoses should support such a marked increase in blood flow. Third, full transformation of spiral arterioles in the placental bed is required to direct 75% of the uterine blood flow to the intervillous space. Unfortunately, no suitable animal model is available for experimentation. Three overarching ethical issues must be considered. Should organ transplant be conducted when it is not absolutely necessary as a life-saving or quality-of-life-saving measure? To what extent should medicine delimit its potential in spite of societal desires? Should society demand from medicine the application of whichever technology can be developed and, if so, to what extent?

Keywords: Immunosuppressive therapy; Medical ethics; Pregnancy; Pregnancy complications; Uterus transplantation.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Medical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Organ Transplantation / ethics*
  • Organ Transplantation / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted / ethics*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Uterus / transplantation*