No one would take issue with a person who needed a heart transplant or a kidney transplant. The surgery is clearly life-saving.
And just a few weeks ago, a 43-year old New York man became the nation's fifth hand transplant recipient. His hand had been crushed and burned in
an accident and had required amputation; he'd been living with a prosthesis for about two and a half years. While he was certainly coping with his prosthesis, would people argue that the desire for an actual hand was vanity? Or that the surgery was cosmetic, or unneccessary?
But the news of the face transplant in Cleveland a couple weeks ago once again has people talking about ethics and whether we are going too far in transplantation. The patient, whose chin and forehead were left intact, received about 80% of the face of another person.
Critics claim that facial transplant surgery is not necessary, because reconstructive surgery can accomplish the rebuilding of a face that has been traumatized in an accident or mauled by an animal (as was the case in the first two face transplants, done in France and China). Surgeons familiar with the cases dissent, saying that there is no tissue on the body that matches facial tissue, and that some patients undergo 30 or 40 reconstructive surgeries hoping to have somewhat of a normal appearance.
From the story:
"Peter A. Clark, director of the Institute of Catholic Bioethics at St. Joseph's University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said a facial transplant introduces unnecessary risks for a procedure that is not a matter of life and death.
"With something like a liver or kidney transplant, it's a life or death transplant," Clark said. "Even with a kidney or liver [transplant], you have to be put on immunosuppressants with serious side effects."
And from the other side:
"If you look at the outcomes, they're far superior doing a face transplant than any reconstructive surgery," said Dr. David Young, a professor of plastic surgery at the University of California, San Francisco.
"Young said plastic surgeons who do large facial reconstructions often find that patients "never really look that great." "Anyone telling you that doing reconstructive surgery is as good is deluding themselves," he said."
Here's a link to the full story on CNN Health:
What do you think?
Is there a line that should be drawn here? What makes it all right for a donor to give a hand to help another person, but not a face? Are we squeamish simply because the face is so personal, or is there a true worry that this borders on the cosmetic?
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