Mother of all things maternal

While hair transplant began in the 50s, with New York dermatologist Norman Orentreich working on male pattern baldness, heads are not yet switchable.

Published: 25th June 2023 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th June 2023 10:25 AM   |  A+A-

Organ Donation

Image for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)

Kidney was the first organ to travel from one body to another, with the maiden transplant accomplished in 1954. Liver, pancreas and heart followed, after which came lungs. While the technology of finding a match and the medical progress on immunosuppressants to prevent rejection by body are evolving, not all human organs can be swapped as we know.

While hair transplant began in the 50s, with New York dermatologist Norman Orentreich working on male pattern baldness, heads are not yet switchable. Though neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero claims it is possible to take a healthy body and attach it to an immobile patient’s head, volunteer Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from a muscle-wasting disease, backed out of the surgery in 2019, leaving this particular type of transplant in the realm of speculation.

The uterus, however, joined the list of travelling organs in 2013. A fairly new procedure, about 70 transplants have been successful so far. The uterus is not a permanent transplant; following one or two pregnancies, the guest uterus can be removed. The norm until now had been live donors who are relatives. A Brazilian woman, who recently gave birth via a womb from a deceased donor, however, opened up the donor circle for women with uterine infertility, as it includes live or deceased donors now. Ten previous transplant attempts globally from deceased donors had ended in failure; this is the first live birth.

Infertility, which can carry a stigma in certain societies, as also cause untold psychological trauma to the infertile, will no doubt be relieved at the multiplying options made available by medical research. If you want to breed, there are ways and means to outwit your body. Are such expensive and time-consuming methods essential though, especially as they sell biological as the superior route to parenthood? It is perhaps motherhood, shrunk to the physical act of giving birth, that finds itself under a microscope.

Surrogacy had done this before, manage to throw up more questions than answers. More and more couples, with money and busy work schedules, are opting to rent a womb. Cases of parents splitting up before the baby’s birth and the surrogate left holding the baby left legal systems scrambling. In the book/film My Sister’s Keeper, a child is conceived as a donor to her terminally ill sister, bringing up many ethical issues.

If you are used to the bloodless and instantaneous cardiac transplants that have been going on for years in film lyrics—I want your heart, you took my heart, my heart is yours—then the world of transplants is simple enough. But if the moralities of the more cutting-edge surgeries concern you, then it’s insomnia all the way.

Shinie Antony 


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