Assisted reproduction

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Rendering of uterus

Consortium Scholar Explores the Ethics of Uterus Transplants

July 6, 2017

In February, 2016, a 26-year-old American woman underwent the nation’s first uterus transplant. While that procedure was ultimately unsuccessful because of a post-operation infection, a Swedish team has conducted a 9-patient trial resulting in 7 pregnancies and 5 deliveries since 2013. During the 2015-2016 academic year, Law School student Katarina Lee received a Consortium Research Award to analyze the medical, legal and ethical ramifications of uterine transplantation. The practice is both fraught with medical risk and raises controversial bioethics questions because, unlike heart or kidney transplants, the operation is not life-saving. Having completed her JD, Lee now works as a clinical ethics fellow at Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy. To learn more about this and other Consortium Research Awards, click here.

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Newborn Adam Nash and older sister Molly

Child Conceived as Sister's Stem Cell Donor is Now a Teen

June 26, 2017

Adam Nash was conceived using in vitro fertilization so doctors could collect stem cells from his umbilical cord blood to save his sister Molly's life. Molly suffers from Fanconi anemia; according to her mother, Lisa Nash, who was quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune"Molly was dying. She was in bone-marrow failure and she had pre-leukemia. We basically used Adam’s garbage to save Molly’s life," because cord blood is discarded after birth. Adam's birth in 2000 sparked widespread discussion of the ethical dilemmas raised by genetic engineering, and was among the inspirations for the book and movie My Sister's Keeper. The treatment, which was successful, was suggested by Dr. John Wagner of Consortium member the Stem Cell Institute. Dr. Wagner is an internationally-recognized as an expert in the field of stem cells and umbilical cord blood transplantation. He was the first to use umbilical cord blood to treat a child with leukemia in 1990; since then, more than 1,300 umbilical cord blood transplants have been performed at the University of Minnesota. A related article with more background on the Nash case is available here

News

Pregnant woman with three sets of arms around her

Surrogacy Demand Surges Despite Resistance

May 16, 2017

Gestational surrogacy has been available in the US since at least 1976, and over the past 40 years an increasing number of people have sought women willing to carry a baby to term for them. According to an article in The Economist, "Though the number of children born globally each year through surrogacy is unknown, at least 2,200 were born in America in 2014, more than twice as many as in 2007" – despite calls by feminists and religious leaders to regulate or ban the practice outright because they consider it exploitative. Among the reasons is the lack of clear regulations across state and national lines, which allows those who want to hire a surrogate to move their search to different countries when they confront obstacles; the article notes, "rather than ending the trade, tighter rules are simply moving it elsewhere." Read the entire piece here

News

Illustration of egg and sperm

Weak Sperm Bank Regulations Cause Havoc for Some Users

July 25, 2016

Because frozen sperm is lightly regulated, some users have had their lives upended because of lost vials, misleading donor descriptions, misappropriation, and careless record keeping. An article in the New York Times describes some of the worse cases, in which women have been inseminated with sperm carrying highly heritable, serious illnesses without their knowledge or consent. Bioethicist Arthur Caplan, PhD (New York University) notes, “Even in New York, when they inspect [sperm banks], they’re looking at hygienic conditions not record-keeping. Nobody confirms that you have what you say you have. It’s absurd that we have these materials so valuable that people pay to store them, but we run it like a 19th-century grocery.” While the official position of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine is that no further regulation is needed, several lawsuits are moving forward, and the Donor Sibling Registry has become an crucial resource for families who used the same donor to connect and share information.  

Publication

Wolf SM , Lawrenz FP , Nelson CA , Kahn JP , Cho MK , Clayton EW , Fletcher JG , Georgieff MK , Hammerschmidt D , Hudson K , Illes J , Kapur V , Keane MA , Koenig BA , LeRoy BS , McFarland EG , Paradise J , Parker LS , Terry SF , Van Ness B , Wilfond BS . Managing Incidental Findings in Human Subjects Research: Analysis and Recommendations. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 2008;36(2):219-248. Download PDF (415.08 KB)

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In Vitro Fertilization

Cutting-Edge Policy Issues in Reprogenomics: Revamping the Law, Ethics & Policy Governing Genomic Biobanks and Assisted Reproductive Technology

This funding encompasses work on two related projects addressing cutting-edge issues posed by the latest advances in biomedical science in the linked domains of genomics and reproductive technologies. Both raise high-profile issues of immediate concern to federal and state government, scientists, and physicians. Both projects address how legal and ethical obligations to those who are most vulnerable (participants in genomic research and children produced using reproductive technologies) should fundamentally change policy and practice.

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