World’s First Mother-to-Daughter Uterus Transplant Raises Ethical Questions

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From left specialist surgeons Andreas G Tzakis, Pernilla Dahm-Kähler, Mats Brannstrom, Michael Olausson and Liza Johannesson attend a news conference Tuesday Sept. 18, 2012 at Sahlgrenska hospital in Goteborg Sweden. Two Swedish women are carrying the wombs of their mothers after what doctors called the world’s first mother-to-daughter uterus transplants. The specialists at the University of Goteborg completed the surgery over the weekend without complications, but say they won’t consider the procedures successful unless the women achieve pregnancy after their observation period ends a year from now. (AP Photo/Adam Ihse)

Women have been given hope of having children after surgeons in Sweden performed the world’s first mother-to-daughter uterus transplants.

From left specialist surgeons Andreas G Tzakis, Pernilla Dahm-Kähler, Mats Brannstrom, Michael Olausson and Liza Johannesson attend a news conference Tuesday Sept. 18, 2012 at Sahlgrenska hospital in Goteborg Sweden. (AP Photo/Adam Ihse)

A team of more than 10 surgeons from the University of Gothenburg completed the pioneering procedure without complications following several years of training. The women will wait a year for their wombs to settle before doctors attempt to implant embryos. Both have already undergone IVF and the embryos were frozen.

“It’s hard to know where all this is headed, but I’ve been around long enough to see some stuff we never imagined become sort of standard,” said Dr. James Goldfarb, director of the University Hospitals Fertility Center in Cleveland and past president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies.

Goldfarb is the same surgeon, who in 1986 was the first to put an embryo in the womb of agestational carrier, said uterine transplants could sidestep some of the downsides of surrogacy, which is illegal in some states and frowned upon in some cultures.

Gothenburg University estimates 2000 women aged 20 to 40 in Sweden could benefit from womb transplantation. However, a British IVF specialist said there was still a long way to go before the technique was shown to work.

Progress in other countries

England is carefully weighing the ethics of the latest technology, including the possibility of making embryos from three parents to foil genetic disease. United States on the other hand has little in the way of legislation when it comes to assisted reproduction.