Facing the future

Penny J. Furness considers the psychosocial issues surrounding facial transplants.
There’s a hesitation from my part, thinking that I would be wearing another face that didn't belong to me... But when I look at it logically, it is 2002, this is going to happen...here I am, with this hole in my head, and if I thought that I could be made whole, with all these complications taken away from me that I have to face every day, then I would go for it. (Christine Piff, facial transplant candidate, talking to BBC News online, 27 November 2002) ADVANCES in microsurgical techniques will soon allow those whose faces have been severely disfigured by disease or injury to be offered a face transplant. But plastic surgeons have raised the need for an ethical debate before any such procedures are carried out in humans. Peter Butler, consultant plastic surgeon at London’s Royal Free Hospital, has said: ‘It is not “Can we do it?”, but “Should we do it?”.’ (‘Face transplants “on the horizon”’, 2002). Transplants may help overcome some of the physiological consequences associated with more traditional facial surgery, but it is worth considering the psychological implications of facial transplantation.

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