Sao Paulo, Brazil, Dec 5, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Researchers from Brazil announced Tuesday that a baby had been born to a mother who had received a transplanted uterus from a deceased woman.
While uterine transplant is ethical, the use of in-vitro fertilization to produce a child, as was done in this case, is morally illicit.
Though 11 babies have been born worldwide to mothers who received a transplanted uterus from a living donor, this is thought to be the first baby born alive from a uterus taken from a deceased woman.
This follows at least 10 other attempted uterus transplants from deceased donors in the United States, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.
The 32-year-old mother, who has a condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, was born without a uterus. In September 2016, she underwent uterine transplantation at the Hospital das Clínicas at the University of São Paulo in Brazil.
The deceased donor of the uterus, a 45-year-old mother of three, had died of bleeding in her brain.
The mother’s doctors gave her drugs to suppress her immune system so her body would not reject the new uterus. She began to menstruate 37 days after the operation, and after seven months her doctors implanted a single embryo. The doctors had previously removed the mother’s eggs and fertilized them artificially.
The healthy baby girl was born by cesarean section Dec. 15, 2017, near gestational week 36. In the same procedure, the doctors removed the woman’s uterus.
“The results establish proof-of-concept for treating uterine infertility by transplantation from a deceased donor, opening a path to healthy pregnancy for all women with uterine factor infertility, without need of living donors or live donor surgery,” the researchers wrote.
The first successful womb transplant from a living donor raised questions among Catholic bioethicists when it took place in 2014.
Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA in 2014 that the transplantation of a healthy womb to a woman who lacks a womb because of birth defects or disease can be licit, and “would be analogous to a situation where a kidney fails to function” and a donor provides a healthy organ to someone in need.
Transplanting the uterus alone could be morally acceptable, he said, as long as the transplant of ovaries and sex cells were not also done, respecting the uniqueness of each person’s genetic information.
For such a womb transplant to be completely licit, Pacholczyk said, in-vitro fertilization could not be used, and children would need to be conceived naturally, “through the marital act.”
The use of IVF, as was done in the case of the mother who received the deceased donor’s uterus, violates Catholic teaching because it separates the creation of life from the marital act, Pacholczyk explained.
Despite this, he said the transplant itself opens the possibility for a new morally acceptable therapy, especially since the use of uteri from deceased women does not prevent the donor from being able to bear life while she is still biologically capable of doing so.
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