About Face: the Face Transplant Debate

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About Face: The Face Transplant Debate By Sherri L. Rodney-Kahle HCA 322 Health Care Ethics and Medical Law Professor Dolores Thomas July 13, 2009 About Face – The Great Face Transplant Debate The first successful human organ transplant in the United States was performed on December 23, 1954. On that date, a kidney was successfully transplanted, with the organ donated by a living identical twin of the recipient (Kaserman, 2007). More than fifty years have now passed since that first successful human organ transplant and since then, organ transplantation has moved from the experimental stage to assume an important role in the treatment of organ failure stemming from a wide variety of underlying causes. Today, kidneys,…show more content…
This phenomenon is described as a "third identity," contrary to sensationalized reports of "wearing a dead person's face" (Hartman, 2005). Lifetime compliance with a higher dosage regimen of current immunosuppressive drugs demands vigilant post-transplant care. In the event of noncompliance with prescribed immunosuppressive drugs, the effect and extent of facial tissue rejection remain a serious risk. A failure of the procedure could further compromise the patient's appearance and his ability to adjust, and could also be life-threatening. The added trauma and disfigurement to the recipient raise concerns as to the remedy, and the extent to which it is even possible; for example, would that remedy entail another facial transplant? Put differently, could the transplant recipient be worse off than having not undergone the facial transplant? (Hartman, 2005) An example of this was the partial face transplant done in China in April, 2006. Dr. Guo Shuzhong is one of China’s most celebrated plastic surgeons who had ambitions to perform the world’s first full face transplant. However, for his first partial face transplant, he selected the wrong type of patient—30-year-old Li Guoxing, a man from a remote rural part of Yunnan province who was attacked by a black bear. The operation went well, Li spent 14 months in the hospital, but tired of city life and, against medical advice, returned to his family in his

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