Torah Tidbits

2 September 2014 / 7 Elul 5774
Issue 1027
Shabbat Parshat Vaychi
December 27, 2012

"From Machon Puah"

Uterine Transplants and Relations

In our discussion of uterine transplantation last week we saw the opinion that when the uterus is transplanted from the donor to the recipient it becomes part of the host’s body for the purpose of defining motherhood. Any children born to the recipient after the procedure will be considered her children and have no maternal connection to the donor.
Even though last week we brought a proof of this position, it could be argued that this is intuitive and needs no proof. When the organ is connected it clearly becomes part of the body. However it could be argued that the uterus does not become part of her body and therefore while she is the genetic mother of the child she would not be considered the birth mother.
This question has relevance to another question that was raised when uterine transplants were originally discussed over a century ago. Another issue discussed by the halachic authorities was the question of whether it is permitted for the husband to have relations with his wife if she has received a uterine transplant. If the uterus is not considered an integral part of the host’s body then it could be considered as illicit relations.
One opinion is that while the uterus may not be considered to be the body of the recipient it is definitely not the body of the donor. As such this act is not considered relations with the donor and would be permitted.
However others disagree and claim that the story of the matriarch’s infertility may indicate differently. The Midrash and Talmud teach that God changed nature and opened their wombs. Why was it necessary for God to change nature, surely they could have undergone an operation to change their situation? Therefore it can be concluded that one is not permitted to have relations with his wife after she underwent a uterine transplant and therefore God needed to perform a miraculous change in our foremother’s situation.
As such, some poskim would only permit a uterus to be donated by a single woman who would be permitted to the husband to overcome this question. Therefore a mother could not donate her own uterus to her daughter as the daughter’s husband would not be permitted to have relations with his mother-in-law.  - More on this next week.

Rabbi Gideon Weitzman

The Puah Institute is based in Jerusalem and helps couples from all over the world who are experiencing fertility problems. Puah offers free counseling in five languages, halachic supervision, and educational programs. Offices in Jerusalem, New York, Los Angeles and Paris. Contact: (02) 651-5050 (Isr).

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