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Published on November 20, 2004 By mignuna In Current Events



In what has surely got to be the grossest thing I have ever heard of,  a UK expert in transplant ethics says that surgeons who are currently preparing to offer human face transplants have not considered the possible psychological and other complications.


A number of international medical teams are expected to carry out the first human face transplant, possibly before the end of the year, and one ‘face transplant’ surgeon says people have been ‘lining up’ for the procedure.


Julie Woodley told the recent meeting of the World Congress of Bioethics in Sydney that (important issues had been) "glossed over regarding the psychological damage to people receiving face transplants, and to the living relatives of people who had donated their face”.


Woodley, a transplant ethics expert from the University of the West of England, said it was technically possible to transplant a black rat's face onto the skull of a white rat, but no-one had tried a face transplant in humans until now.


Woodley says the plan to remove the face of the recipient and sew on the face of someone who has recently died may be problematic as “relatives of donors might give consent for their deceased loved one's face to be donated so they could see them "live on".


She also questioned whether face transplants were really a way of society preventing having to deal with the unusual, and ultimately preventing a more accepting society. "What is so wrong with having a severe disfigurement ?" she asks. "Is this eugenics by another name ?"


Woodley also predicted a "slippery slope" which could see face transplants becoming routine in the same way cosmetic surgery is today, putting increased pressure on all kinds of people to change their appearance.


She said that people who received a face transplant would also suffer the stress of intense media scrutiny. This would mean they, and the faces they had received, would lose anonymity, and may lead to bereaved relatives wanting a relationship with the person who received the new face.



Quotes from: Link




on Nov 20, 2004
It is bizarre. I can imagine it would be very psychologically traumatic to have someone else's face, regardless of one's own previous disfigurement. Of course, with different bone and muscle structure, I wonder how different a transplant recipient would look from himself and from the donor. This is very interesting.

Have you seen Face Off with John Travolta and Nicholas Cage?
on Nov 20, 2004
I doubt very much with all the hoopla an actual face transplant could successfully take place. Number one, the surgical technics already in use by the nip and tuck surgeons (plastic & reconstructive guys), that could move the orbits up or down, left or right, not to mention. the cheek or jawbones could actually do the job of having somebody else's face even to the satisfaction of any tax-evading drug lord. Secondly, even with the state of the art knowledge on anti rejection drugs, they're not that failsafe when it comes to dealing with the human body's largest organ - the skin. So imagine having a face-transplant, only to have blebs coming out of the skin pores when the donor's body rejects the face graft.

Re. "Face-Off", T.Whine, it's pure fantasy. better to trust a plastic surgeon (accredited ones, I might add).

hate to douse cold water over the fascinating subject ,mig - ( like a mythical Holy Grail for many aspiring plastic surgeons), but those are the facts.
on Nov 20, 2004
Hmm If it is possible don't mean we SHOULD do it. What's next? Brain transplant? What happens if your new body rejects what's quite literally you?
on Nov 20, 2004
Then you pump it full of drugs and hope for the best. Personally I'm against face transplants - surely there's a better way, like researching how to grow skin that looks real rather than looks like plastic.
on Nov 20, 2004
Re. "Face-Off", T.Whine, it's pure fantasy. better to trust a plastic surgeon (accredited ones, I might add).

Do you really think I'm so stupid as to think it's NOT fantasty?
on Nov 21, 2004
I don't see how a "face transplant" could make you look more like someone else than yourself. (Unless you got skin of a different color....) As TW said, the bone structure and the muscle structure would remain "original equipment", and those, much more than mere skin, really determine what your face looks like. The skin is just a protective coating, really.
on Nov 21, 2004
bereaved relatives wanting a relationship with the person who received the new face. now that's a riot!
on Nov 21, 2004


i agree with the general revulsion, everyone !

scatter, they did discuss the rejection issue in the linked article, and although they of course have anti-rejection drugs, they had no real answer for what would happen if the face was completely rejected (being that presumably the 'remaining' 'old' face was removed to make way for the 'new' one).

arrrrgh ! ick. ewwww. ahem.

citahellion, i agree with you. i always do !. and it's true that features such as eyes and teeth and bones would give the 'new face a different look altogether.

stevendedalus, perhaps they could just have the person stuffed instead ?

texas, i have seen that movie, and it was horrible. i did understand that you referenced it to fiction. i agree, the potential for all sorts of damage is possible.

XX, i always enjoy your insight, and this is no exception. i utterly agree as always.

cactoblaster, i too think your suggestion is the way to go. 

mig XXX