A hospital in New York is looking into offering the first uterus transplant in the United States. Ok, before you jump to conclusions, this is not a comedy post. I know a lot of you out there in blogland are reaching down deep for that late night talk show joke and punchline, but this thing is seriously being talked about as a possibility.
According to the article, the hospital ethics board has conditionally signed off on these preliminary plans. As you already know, ethics boards sometimes make divisive decisions - just ask the hospital board who decided on The Ashley Treatment.
Organ transplants usually are performed to save lives, but increasingly they are being done to improve quality of life. Hand transplants and the recent partial face transplant of a woman in France are examples.There are many questions that need to be answered before this possibility becomes a reality. When asked if it could be done, lead physician Dr. Giuseppe Del Priore said, "I believe it's technically possible to do." But, just because we CAN do this from a technical standpoint, does this mean we SHOULD do this? That's my ethical question. I also have the following questions.
Medical questions: Anti-rejection transplant drugs are powerful stuff. Yes, we have some data which states that the pregnancy rate for transplant patients are "not much worse than for the general population." Can this data be correlated to uterine transplant patients? How much do anti-rejection drugs cross the placenta barrier? What would be the effect to the fetus/baby?
Moral questions: You have to know that this will be another platform for the abortion debate to take place. (By the way, welcome to those of you out there who found this post from a Google search). Presuming the transplant goes ok (and that's a big IF at this point), what if the pregnancy goes awry? What if the life of the mother is at risk and/or the life of the fetus/baby is at risk? Both sides of this debate will definitely make their point of view known.
Legal questions: The malpractice attorneys are preying, er, praying that this procedure becomes a reality. The liability here is huge. The potential for medical problems are everywhere starting with the transplant itself, then the pregnancy, then the potential complications of anti-rejection transplant drugs.
The cost is unknown but could top $500,000, including two weeks of hospitalization, Del Priore said. He expects the cost to be shared by the hospital, charities that support infertility research, the patient, and insurers who cover the embryo creation part.My final question is a financial question. I know I'm going to be attacked for this comment, but here goes: Is all of this worth $500,000? I know people are going to say, "Well, Dr. A, isn't life priceless to you?" Or, "You don't know what it's like to be told that from a medical standpoint, you can NEVER have the possibility of the pregnancy and childbirth experience."
Those are good points. But, you sense my pessimism here. Personally, I don't think uterus transplants will ever happen. Even if they could be technically done, I don't think they should be done. My 2 cents worth...