In the News
First Face Transplant Performed in the U.S.
Are there ethical concerns?
-April Daniels Hussar
In an astounding medical feat, U.S. surgeons at The Cleveland Clinic have completed the first near-total face transplant surgery in America. There have been three other face transplants (in France and China), but this is by far the most extensive.
According to The Washington Post, “a team led by reconstructive surgeon Maria Siemionow replaced about 80 percent of a disfigured woman’s face with that of a deceased female donor …”
The patient has previously been horribly disfigured. According to Dr. Siemionow, “Our patient was called names and humiliated …You need the face to face the world.”
Truly mind-boggling. We are full of questions … the biggest one being what does it feel like to have someone else’s face?
Interestingly, the patient’s face will NOT look like the donor’s face; the patient’s own bone structure and facial muscles affect the shape.
The procedure raises ethical concerns in the medical community, because it’s done not to save a person’s life but to enhance his or her quality of life. In fact – the procedure is done at the risk of the patient’s life. Additionally, upon surviving the surgery, the patient must take powerful immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of his or her life.
The first face-transplant, performed in France on 38-year-old Isabelle Dinoirem, who had been mauled by a dog, caused quite an uproar in the medical community. Diniore lost her lips, cheeks, chin and most of her nose in the dog attack. After the surgery she was eventually able to regain skin sensation and facial muscular control, but she had a difficult recovery, and suffered infections and kidney failure due to the immune-suppressing drugs.
In addition to physical health concerns, there is the question of psychological health – and also the fear that door is now open to the possibility of transplants being done merely for aesthetic purposes to a perfectly “healthy” face.