Double Seminar: Uterus Transplantation and Death in Human Beings.


Double Seminar:

Uterus Transplantation and Death in Human Beings.

16.30 – 19:30hrs. Thursday the 3rd of December 2015. 

The Works, The Mac, St Annes Square, Belfast.

Note: Parking is available at St Anne’s Square multi- storey car park.

Download an Event Flyer [.pdf] or join our Facebook Group.

The seminar is £5 to attend and free to Forum Members. Interim Membership costs £5. Please complete the application form available here. All payments will be taken at the event. Completed membership forms, requests to join our email list, and any other enquiries should be addressed to:

Session 1: Uterus Transplants

Should we Morally Prefer Deceased Donation? Dr Nicola Williams (Lancaster)

Whole-Body Gestational Donation. Dr Anna Smajdor (UEA)

In this session the topic of uterine transplantation as a treatment for absolute uterine factor infertility will be introduced. Should it reach clinical application this procedure would allow patients the chance to become gestational, as well as social and genetic, parents. Like many other experimental transplants – such as face, hand, corneal and larynx transplants – uterine transplants can be considered therapeutic but, nevertheless, it is not a ‘life saving’ but ‘quality of life’ procedure. One that may enrich the lives of recipients but also presents risks to their life, health and wellbeing. Using live donors this procedure has been successfully performed in Sweden and resulted in the birth of three children. The Health Research Authority (HRA) has recently given approval for 10 such transplants to take place in the UK. However, in this case, uteri will be retrieved from deceased donors. Both of these talks will explore the ethical questions raised by uterine transplantation, whether or not we should morally prefer living or deceased donation, and the ethics of ‘whole body gestational donation.’

Session 2. Death in Human Beings:

When do Human Beings Die? Dr Guy Schofield (Imperial)

The Deaths of Human Beings. Dr Nathan Emmerich (QUB)


For most of human history there has been no particular need to establish the exact time of a person’s death. However, modern medical advances have meant more precise answers are required. The first speaker (Guy Schofield) in this session will present a critical examination of existing attempts to define death – such as Cardiopulmonary Death, Whole Brain Death, Brainstem Death and Higher Brain Death – and demonstrate that each has certain intuitively problematic implications. He will then argue that death occurs when the collection of biological processes that maintains our bodies (homeostasis) finally cease. The second speaker (Nathan Emmerich) will argue that we should embrace a pluralist account of death as a ‘wickedly complex’ and multi-faceted phenomenon. By way of a conclusion, and with particular reference to organ donation, we will consider if defining death is important or if our attempts to do so are, in fact, attempts to settle ethical questions by proxy.

All Welcome

Speaker Bios:

Nicola Williams (Lancaster University) is a postdoctoral researcher on the Wellcome Funded Project: The Donation and Transfer of Reproductive Materials. With a background in Philosophy and Politics her research focuses on ethical questions surrounding human reproductive tissue donation and, more specifically, on the ethics of uterine transplantation. She is interested in questions of pre-natal harm, social and distributive justice, and reproduction more generally. Her project twitter account can be found at: @ReproductiveDon

Anna Smajdor (UEA) is a lecturer in ethics at Norwich Medical School and has published extensively on issues related to reproductive ethics. She studied philosophy at Edinburgh University, and medical ethics at Imperial College, London. A full list of her publications is available on her website at

Guy Schofield (Imperial) is a NIHR funded Academic Clinical Fellow in Palliative Medicine at Imperial College London, and an SpR in Palliative Medicine at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. He holds MAs in both Philosophy, and Healthcare Ethics & Law, as well as a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He has worked as an honorary lecturer in medical ethics and law at St George’s University of London and plans to undertake a PhD. His talk is based on a recently published paper (Open Access). He can be found at @DrGuySchofield

Nathan Emmerich (QUB) is a Council member of the NIEF and a Visiting Research Fellow in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast. He is currently writing a book on the notion of ethical expertise in the context of bioethics. His talk is based on a paper written in response to Schofield’s article (in press, available from the author on request). He can be found at @bioethicsuk