First birth from a deceased womb donor

The news broke in early December that the first baby had born following a womb transplant from a deceased donor. Dr Natasha Hammond-Browning was interviewed by BBC News 24 about this medical development.

The recipient of the womb transplant received an embryo transfer 7 months after the transplant and the baby girl was born in December 2017. This success occurred in Brazil, and other births from living donors have been successful in Sweden, the US, Serbia and India. Teams worldwide had made previous unsuccessful attempts at womb transplants from deceased donors, so this success is a medical milestone. To date, there have been 13 births following womb donation, the rest have been born following donation from living donors.

The UK is due to commence its own womb transplant clinical trial shortly, utilising wombs from both living and deceased donors. Within the UK, explicit consent is required for the donation of a womb. From living donors this is unproblematic, for deceased donors there must be explicit consent prior to death or consent from a qualified person.

Deceased donation is medically and ethically less problematic than living donation. Living donors have to undergo a radical hysterectomy, involving lengthy, complex and invasive surgery. The risks are numerous, including but not limited to, potential bladder problems, general anaesthesia, and the long term effects of hysterectomy. There are also concerns around familial pressure to donate, and feelings of regret. In contrast, deceased donation allows surgeons to harvest longer vasculature for transplantation without concerns of damage to the deceased other organs and body parts. The removal of the uterus is only undertaken once other life saving organs have been harvested. The success with a womb transplant from a deceased donor widens the pool of potential donors for women in need of a transplanted womb.

We now await the next birth from a deceased donation, and the progression of womb donation from medical research to medical treatment.

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Dr N Hammond-Browning

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