Shaping Ethics, Shrouding Ethics

Formande etik

This project analyses descriptions and discussions of uterus transplantation in Swedish newspapers as well as in two Swedish medical magazines. The aim of the project is to investigate what ethical aspects of uterus transplantation are raised, presented and discussed in this material, and how this is done. The project also examines ethical questions that are not raised and discusses the implications of not addressing these questions.    

The world’s first attempt to transplant a uterus from a living donor to a related recipient was carried out in the autumn of 2012, in Sweden, when a daughter received a uterus from her mother at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg. Since then, eight women have received uteri from donors who are related to or friends of the recipients, and five children have been born following Swedish attempts at uterus transplantation.
At present, uterine transplantation is combined with IVF and are performed only within the on-going clinical research project at Sahlgrenska. Previously, two attempts were made to transplant a uterus. In Saudi Arabia, in 2000, a woman received a uterus from a living, non-related donor, but the organ had to be removed after three months due to organ failure. In the second attempt in Turkey, 12 years later, a uterus from a deceased donor was transplanted into a woman. The woman became pregnant twice, but both pregnancies ended in early miscarriage.      

The project “Shaping ethics - Uterine transplants in Swedish media” analyses how uterine transplants have been presented and discussed in Swedish newspapers and in the medical magazines “Läkartidningen” and “Dagens Medicin” during the period of 1998-2016. The aim of the project is to identify which ethical aspects of uterine transplantation are highlighted and how they are discussed in these materials. How does the media contribute to making certain issues appear more ethically central compared to others, through its ways of presenting and discussing uterus transplantation?   

Norms about maternity, bodies and medical innovations 

The project studies how socio-cultural values and norms about maternity, bodies and medical innovations are expressed, strengthened, challenged and shaped in the examined materials. The project also explores how target groups, objectives, benefits, risks, interests and activities are described, and how the development and use of uterus transplantation is both likened to and differentiated from other technologies.    

The project identifies which questions are presented as ethically central, discovers which concepts, principles or ethical perspectives are used to answer these ethical questions (if any), and how this is done. The project also investigates whether some other concepts, principles or perspectives within the larger medical ethical field become irrelevant or useless because of how ethical questions are defined and discussed in the media. Which other issues from an ethical perspective could have been formulated but have been neglected by the Swedish media? Is it a problem if certain questions are neglected? The project’s approach opens the discussion on how medical ethical issues are raised, discussed and answered in this specific case, as well as how the field of medical ethics is limited in the process.     

Name of the project: Forma(nde) etik. Livmodertransplantation i svensk media. 



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