The Ethics Behind A Whole Ovary Transplant Operation for Infertility
By Jonathan Owen
November 16, 2008
News of the world’s first baby born after a remarkable ovary transplant operation offered hope last night to millions of women around the world with fertility problems, including more than 100,000 women in the UK who suffer from early menopause and those undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer.
The birth of Maja was described by mother Susanne Butscher as “a little miracle”. The 39-year-old was given the ovary by her twin sister, Dorothee, a year ago, after she suffered an early menopause.
Dr. Sherman Silber, who carried out the groundbreaking transplant, is based at the Infertility Center of St. Louis, in Missouri, USA. He has pioneered the technique of ovarian tissue transplants in recent years, but the birth of Maja by Caesarean at London’s Portland Hospital last Tuesday is the result of the first successful whole ovary transplant…
Mrs. Butscher had been diagnosed as being infertile 12 years ago and was told her ovaries were not working properly. The success of the technique will offer hope to infertile women – particularly those with cancer who could otherwise be left infertile by their treatment. They will be able to have their ovaries removed and frozen until they can be put back at a later date. But the overwhelming usage will be by women who want to preserve their fertility for the future and delay the menopause, Dr. Silber said.
Even the Infertility Network was muted in its response last night. Clare Lewis-Jones, the charity’s chief executive, said: “This is potentially good news for patients who cannot produce their own eggs, perhaps through premature menopause or following cancer treatment. Although the technique is still in its very early stages, it does offer hope in the future for some.”
Mrs. Butscher said giving birth had changed her life “Being the first woman in the world to give birth after a whole ovary transplant [see video] hasn’t sunk in yet, but I’m just so grateful to the doctors who enabled this to happen – and to my sister, of course,” she said. “I’m so lucky to have had this wonderful opportunity, which has given me a sense of completeness I would never have had otherwise.”