March 1, 2024

Ethical hurdles for face transplants

Doctors at the University of Louisville in the US have successfully experimented with face transplants on cadavers and are now ready for living patients, according to a report in New Scientist. If the operation is approved by the university’s ethics committee, the surgeons plan to offer it to people with severe facial injuries or disfigurement. Transplant surgeon Dr John Barker says that a person with a new face would not look like the donor.

The procedure is highly controversial. Only six months ago the Royal College of Surgeons of England advised doctors not to proceed with face transplants because of psychological and physical risks. And Changing Faces, a UK charity for people with facial disfigurements, says that “there are a great many questions to which answers are needed before this extremely risky and experimental surgery could be considered a viable option for patients with severe facial disfigurements.”