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Swedish doctors transplant wombs into 9 women

| Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, 5:09 p.m.

STOCKHOLM — Nine women in Sweden have successfully received transplanted wombs donated from relatives in an experimental procedure that has raised ethical concerns. The women will soon try to become pregnant with their new wombs, the doctor in charge of the pioneering project has revealed.

The women were born without a uterus or had it removed because of cervical cancer.

In many European countries, including Sweden, using a surrogate to carry a pregnancy isn't allowed.

There have been two previous attempts to transplant a womb — in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Both failed to produce babies. Scientists in Britain, Hungary and elsewhere are planning similar operations, but the efforts in Sweden are the most advanced.

Some experts have raised concerns about whether it's ethical to use live donors for an experimental procedure that doesn't save lives. But John Harris, a bioethics expert at the University of Manchester, didn't perceive a problem with that as long as donors are fully informed. He said donating kidneys isn't necessarily life-saving, yet is widely promoted.

The technique used in Sweden, using live donors, is controversial. In Britain, doctors are planning to perform uterus transplants but will use wombs from dying or dead people. That was the case in Turkey. Last year, Turkish doctors announced their patient got pregnant, but the pregnancy failed after two months.

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