Monday, February 29, 2016

First U.S. Uterine Transplant is History

The first uterine transplant in the U.S. was performed recently by a team of surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic. The 26-year-old recipient was unable to have children of her own because she suffered from uterine factor infertility (UFI), meaning either that she didn't have a uterus or her uterus was non-functional. The donated uterus came from a deceased donor.

This was just the first of ten uterine transplants planned over the next five years as part of a clinical trial funded by the government. The ten patients will be chosen from a pool of volunteers according to strict criteria described in the clinical trial summary document. The donated uteri will come from cadavers. Once the first ten transplants have been completed and fully evaluated, it will be decided whether the procedure should become more widely available.

The possibility that uterine transplants might become routine raises important ethical issues related to safety for the recipient. Substantial counseling and psychological evaluation may be needed. After all, uterine transplant would be an elective procedure undertaken only to allow a woman to experience childbirth, and not to improve her health or prolong her life.

Then there's the thorny issue of who should pay for an elective transplant procedure; the patient, or health insurance? (See this blog Nov. 23, 2015).

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