India’s first uterus transplant recently took place at Pune’s Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute (GCLI). As word of the uterus transplant spread, more women came forward requesting the surgery. The surgery was not without its ethical and legal concerns. Because the surgery is risky, other options such as surrogacy or adoption are being offered. Uterus transplantation is the surgical process where a health uterus is transplanted into a woman where the uterus is absent or diseased.
Pune is a city in the Maharashtra state of India. Pune is the second largest city in the state and is the political center in the subcontinent with the Peshwas, the prime ministers for the Maratha Empire. Called the Oxford of the East with several well-known educational centers in the city, Pune also has several research institutes for information technology. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the region.
The day after the procedure, officials in the Pune hospital reported that 21 women requested the surgery. Dr. Shailesh Puntambekar, the medical director of Pune’s Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute, said that the surgery offered women the “legal and biological right as a mother, as the ovary being used in the treatment is of the recipient,” according to the Hindustan Times. Dr. Puntambekar also continued by saying that he could not tell women “what option to choose or what is right.”
The donated uterus came from a mother giving it to her daughter who did not have a uterus. The next day, the team transplanted another uterus from mother to daughter. All in all, the total time for the first surgery was nine hours. All patients are “stable” according to Dr. Puntambekar. He added that the first three uterus transplants were done for free. The women who received the donated organs should be able to conceive through in-vitro fertilization and go on to give birth. But before the surgery happens, the donor and recipients go through screenings before the uterus is removed and transplanted to the recipient.
While some are applauding the team for the surgery, others are still weighing the ethical implications of the surgery. The Wire reported that the donor should be a family member who is not looking to expand her family with an “altruistic motive,” but not someone who was “unqualified” and must be a “near-relative.” Some cities in India have reported illegal hysterectomies. Healthcare activists are pushing for regulations to prevent a “black market” for uteri.
Other healthcare professionals are worried that physicians are not following “the correct protocol” for the surgeries, India Today reported. Uterus transplants are not a life-saving procedure, unlike heart or kidney transplants. For now, the success rate of uterus transplantation is low. More research is needed to perfect the technique and to debate the ethics of the surgical procedure.
By Cheryl Werber