Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ethical debate on face transplantation has evolved over time

Date:
November 27, 2013
Source:
Wolters Kluwer Health
Summary:
Once viewed as an "outlandish, morally objectionable" concept with science-fiction overtones, face transplantation is now accepted as a "feasible and necessary treatment" for severely disfigured patients. The evolving ethical debate over face transplantation is analyzed in a newly published article.

Once viewed as an "outlandish morally objectionable" concept with science-fiction overtones, face transplantation is now accepted as a "feasible and necessary treatment" for severely disfigured patients. The evolving ethical debate over face transplantation is analyzed in a special topic paper in the December issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

Harriet Kiwanuka and colleagues of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, analyzed published articles on the ethics of face transplantation, focusing how the ethical debate has changed over time. Their review shows that initial concerns over the impact on patients' identity have faded, as experience shows the benefits of facial transplants in helping patients with severe facial disfigurement return to a more-normal life.

Ethics of Facial Transplant -- From Concerns about 'Identity Issues'

In a review of the medical literature, Kiwanuka and coauthors identified 110 articles discussing the ethics of face transplantation. Published from 2002 to 2012, nearly half of the papers appeared in the year before and after the first facial transplant -- performed by a French team in 2005. Since then, the number of ethical discussions on face transplantation has gradually decreased.

The papers showed a "time-related trend" in ethical positions. All of the articles published in 2002 concluded that face transplantation was not ethically justified. By 2008, all published papers acknowledged the ethical concerns, but concluded that they were outweighed by the benefits of successful facial transplant.

The researchers identified a core group of 15 topics that recurred through the years. The most common issues were related to "identity change/psychological effects," the need for lifelong immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the transplanted face, and the risks versus benefits of face transplantation.

Many of the early concerns over identity focused on the idea of "wearing someone else's face" -- perhaps reflecting the influence of the 1997 science fiction movie Face Off, in which an FBI agent and a criminal switch faces. But these concerns faded, as experience showed that facial transplant recipients gain a new appearance that is "neither identical to the recipient's nor the donor's [face]," write the researchers, who were led by senior author Bohdan Pomahac, MD.

Practical Issues Informed by Experience

To date, 25 facial transplants have been performed worldwide, and the procedure is expected to be more common in the years ahead. In more recent ethical discussions, some new issues have become prominent, such as patient selection for face transplantation, the inability of severely disfigured patients to lead normal lives, and the high costs of face transplantation.

Many recent papers focus on characteristics of the "ideal recipient" for facial transplant. One report cites the "Catch-22" of face transplantation: the patients who are most capable of coping with face transplantation may be those who need it least, because they are coping well with their disfigurement.

Meanwhile, experience has provided evidence-based information on the true risks and benefits of the procedure. As the discussion continues, new questions arise: Should face transplantation be considered for children? What are the issues related to race/ethnicity? As face transplant becomes more common, how will donor tissues be allocated? Kiwanuka and coauthors conclude, "These questions belong in today's field of face transplantation, and must be further investigated for the sake of evolving this field to its maximum potential in a safe, ethically sound manner."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wolters Kluwer Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Harriet Kiwanuka, Ericka Maria Bueno, J. Rodrigo Diaz-Siso, Geoffroy C. Sisk, Lisa Soleymani Lehmann, Bohdan Pomahac. Evolution of Ethical Debate on Face Transplantation. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 2013; 132 (6): 1558 DOI: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3182a97e2b

Cite This Page:

Wolters Kluwer Health. "Ethical debate on face transplantation has evolved over time." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131127170417.htm>.
Wolters Kluwer Health. (2013, November 27). Ethical debate on face transplantation has evolved over time. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131127170417.htm
Wolters Kluwer Health. "Ethical debate on face transplantation has evolved over time." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131127170417.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Is your child ready? Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) Now that the U.S. is restricting travel from West Africa, some are dropping questions about a travel ban and instead asking about visa bans. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) Stepping up their vigilance against Ebola, federal authorities said Wednesday that everyone traveling into the US from Ebola-stricken nations will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

AFP (Oct. 22, 2014) Polish doctors describe how they helped a paralysed man walk again, with the patient in disbelief at the return of sensation to his legs. Duration: 1:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins