Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Partial face transplant raises ethical concerns

I really don't get all the hand-wringing about this. Yes, I understand that having a significantly altered appearance could be somewhat unsettling, at least in the beginning. But how are there ethical concerns when your choices are a)refusing the surgery and living life with a severely disfigured face or b)attempting the transplant knowing about the associated risks and rejection possibilities? Who wouldn't choose b? Maybe she should have consulted with a professional ethicist before deciding? I think a lot of this is just people liking to hear themselves talk. Take this quote -

Dr Daniel Sokol, of Imperial College in London, raised the problem of consent. "Ethically, the main issue is that of informed consent: Did the patient give adequately informed consent to the procedure? Did she understand the risks and implications of the transplant," he asked, adding there is no reason to suggest she did not.

He says right out that there's no reason to suggest she didn't know the risks, so why bring it up? You could say the same thing about many kinds of surgery.

I'm surprised there haven't been any references to Face/Off yet, in all this coverage.

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Christiana said...

I agree. I don't get what the big deal is. I think people are just squeamish about faces, and there really isn't anything else to it.

sumo said...

I get up in the morning and think a new face would be a good thing... thanks to Martha Stewart.

skywind said...

According to what I've read, the transplanted part of the face isn't going to look that "different," in that facial features are determined in large part by underlying bone structure. What bothers people, IMO, is the idea that someone can have someone else's face. It seems icky and weird, and could be emotionally difficult for the recipient for those reasons, not because she's going to look like a totally different person. She's not.

And really, how is this different from any other form of transplant--a heart, a lung, a kidney, skin grafts, bone marrow? Because it's icky and weird.

Recidivist said...

why bring it up?

Simply because there are very significant ethical issues, which do not arise in any other transplant procedures and need to be properly discussed .. not to inhibit the use of procedure, but to make sure that best practice is observed.

It would be a great failing for the medical establishment not to discuss the issue fully.

Miranda said...

I think that people that have to bring up all this shit about ethicalness (is that a word?) have nothing better to do. Like with alot of other topics.

So she had a disfiguring accident. Leaving her face disfured is just as damaging. She knew the risks.

I myself am going to donate whatever is good enough to give.

I have to admit that movie Face/off came to my mind the first time I read it.

John Howard said...

I don't really see any ethical concerns, but I guess it does need to be discussed if just to dismiss them.

I think you're wrong about Face Off, I'm pretty sure I saw a couple of references to it when I originally saw the story. Keri and I went to see Face Off on our first date, and she still laughs at me because I was very bothered by the fact that they didn't even rinse the face off in anything before transplanting. Seems a little dirty to me.

Chris Howard said...

It would be a great failing for the medical establishment not to discuss the issue fully.

My argument isn't really with the medical establishment, it's the slant of the news coverage. It seems that the ethical issues are being played up by laymen in this case because, as Christiana noted, people are just squeamish about faces.