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Face Transplants

Face Transplants

Severe facial disfigurement can take away an individual’s sense of identity and integrity. In the past skin grafting was the only feasible way to reconstruct, or rather cover up missing parts of the face. However, in the past decades medical advances have empowered doctors to perform face transplants that is detaching a donor’s face partly or entirely and transplanting it to another person.

Face transplants pose enormous medical and ethical questions, but for an otherwise healthy individual, in spite of the emotional trauma of the huge physical transformation, it may be the only salvation.

What Are the Medical Concerns of Face Transplants?

  • Finding the right donor:
  • Face transplants donors must be alive but brain dead with no hope to recover.
  • The donor’s blood type and tissue type must be identical with that of the recipient to minimize the risk of immune rejection.
  • Their skin color and age must be similar to enhance the esthetic results.
  • Removing and reconnecting tissues (muscles, nerves, bones, veins, fat) without permanent damage.
  • Ensure blood flow, sensation and movement of the face transplants.
  • Permanent immune repression
  • Life-long psychological care

What Are the Ethical Concerns of Face Transplants?

  • Looking at images of face transplant before and after, it is hard to acknowledge that they show the very same patient. The recipient may feel the same and is very likely to be emotionally disturbed in all his life.
  • Most of the time it is not a life-saving intervention. If technology evolves, in the future there might be voluntary face transplants, just for esthetic reasons.
  • Technically euthanasia is applied on the donor who is still alive when the face is removed. Face transplant before and after sights might be a life-long emotional shock to the relatives of the donor as well.


Face Transplants Abroad

In certain countries the majority medical opinion does not consider face transplants medically safe and ethically correct, or they do not have the conditions to perform such a revolutionary procedure. At these locations patients in need may not have another chance but seek face transplants abroad (in India, Turkey, the U.S, and the U.K). There have only been around 20 face transplants performed worldwide, so regardless of whether having face transplant abroad or no, it will always attract media attention endangering the patient’s privacy.