This paper summarizes the issue of womb transplants. It also summarizes some of the main ethical concerns regarding this issue, and gives my opinion on those ethical issues.
The UK Department of Health has approved transplants in women aged 25-38, for research purposes. The research hopes to eventually be able to help women who do not have a womb – either because they were born without one, or because they have lost their womb as a result of illness or accident. The wombs will be transplanted and then implanted with embryos created from the women’s own eggs, enabling the women to have a natural birth experience without the aid of surrogate mothers. The experiment has been tried before in Sweden, but the UK procedure will be slightly different, meaning that the full extent of the risks to the women is unknown. (“UK Womb Transplants”, 2015, n.p.).
A number of ethical issues are raised by this procedure. In the first place, it is not a life-saving procedure which means that it could be viewed as unnecessary compared to the attendant risks. This raises the ethical question of whether the risk and effort of the procedure are worth undergoing, for what is essentially a matter of desire rather than necessity for these women. In the second place, the procedure necessitates the use of drugs by the pregnant women, which may pose risks to the unborn baby. This is ethically difficult, because it risks potential harm to an innocent baby who, unlike the mothers, is unable to give consent. Finally, the doctors themselves face an ethical dilemma with regard to the unknown risks of the procedure. Because the risks are not fully understood, it could be considered unethical for medical professionals to perform these operations on the women, as they could be seen as exploiting the emotional needs of these women to further their research.
In spite of the ethical issues, I do not believe it is fundamentally unethical for this research to be performed. Although there may be unknown risks attached to the procedure, the women are aware of this risk, and have consented freely to proceed; because the women are consenting adults with the capacity to judge whether the risks are worthwhile, I feel this makes the operation ethical in this regard. While the operation may not be physically life-saving, it does help women to fulfil an important biological and psychological need, and I therefore think it would be equally unethical to deny women this possibility unless much more serious problems with the procedure were proven. Finally, although there may be risks to the unconsenting foetus, the procedure also gives the possibility of life to that foetus where there would have otherwise been no possibility. Like any other medical procedure for a foetus, therefore, I feel the procedure can be justified ethically.
Overall, although the ethical issues need to be addressed carefully, I feel that these transplants can be deemed ethical.
- “UK Womb Transplants: 5 Ethical Issues.” (2015, October 5). FoxNews.com. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/10/05/uk-womb-transplants-5-ethical-issues.print.html.