Womb transplants: a disturbing concept
I read an article today that really disturbed me. Very recently, some doctors in Sweden announced that they had transplanted a womb into a woman and she had gone on to give birth to a baby that had developed in the transplanted uterus. Apparently, two more babies are on the way to two other women who have received such transplants. The doctors think that this procedure will help women who have had to have a hysterectomy perhaps due to cancer or who maybe were born without a uterus in the first place, but who want to have a baby.
The facts that worry me about this are the following:
1. So far, the transplants have been taken from living donors, who are close relatives (mother, sister) of the recipient. Not only is this major surgery, but hysterectomy creates a huge psychological issue for many women, even if they don't want to have more children or don't want any children at all. I cannot imagine the pressure someone would feel on being asked by her sister or daughter, "Please can I have your womb, so I can have a baby?" If non-related donors were permitted, this could also result in enormous abuse of women in desperate economic circumstances.
2. The cost of such a transplant is already high and would put enormous strain on any social health care system. In addition, though, pregnancy has to be started by in vitro fertilisation, which is a further economic burden on the health care system.
3. In order to keep the pregnancy going, the "mother" has to receive high doses of immunosuppressants to damp down her immune system so she doesn't reject the transplanted womb. Firstly, I see a huge ethical issue here. If despite the treatment she does reject the transplant, the baby inside the womb is also condemned to death. Secondly, I can see a health issue. If a woman had a hysterectomy because of cancer, there is always the threat of cancer recurring in another part of the body. One of the functions of the immune system is to patrol the body and get rid of cancer cells. Suppressing the immune system will prevent this. Even if the woman feels this is an acceptable risk, she is potentially putting her baby in a situation of having its mother die of cancer while it is still very young.
4. The doctors consider that a transplanted womb is not strong enough to deal with a natural birth. Therefore, a Caesarean section is needed to deliver the baby. Not only is this major surgery for the mother, but it is considered by be a very traumatic way for a baby to enter the world, which may have repercussions throughout the life of that person.
Apparently, one of the reasons for the approach is because surrogate pregnancies are illegal in many places. Of course, there is also the fact that some women feel they have not proved themselves as women and/or that no child is really theirs if they have not carried a baby within their bodies.
Sorry, I think womb transplants is taking things too far and that any woman who would consider this is being unspeakably selfish.
What do you think?