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eISSN: 1643-3750

Facial transplantation: Understanding the interests of patients and hurdles to informed consent

Michael Hurlburt

Med Sci Monit 2007; 13(8): RA147-153

ID: 491816

Available online: 2007-08-01

Published: 2007-08-01

Facial transplantation for persons with severe facial deformity has sparked much debate in the bioethics community. Unfortunately, the primary ethical issues stemming from facial transplantation have been neglected in the flurry of published literature, resulting in a lopsided and inadequate evaluation of the interests of patients and our responsibilities to them. In this essay, I shall address the major concerns raised by those who believe that it would be unethical to allow persons with disfigured faces to undergo facial transplantation. Most critics have argued hastily that the experimental nature of this procedure makes it impossible for patients to provide informed consent. I shall demonstrate that this judgment is misguided and that patients can be sufficiently educated about the procedure’s seemingly unique potential risks and benefits. Upon proving the hurdles to providing informed consent are surmountable, I shall establish that the worries held by opponents of facial transplantation do not justify withholding this procedure from disfigured persons. I shall explain that there is sufficient understanding of the possible outcomes of facial transplantation to ensure that the interests of patients will be given proper consideration, and that given our concern for the autonomy and well-being of patients, facial transplantation should be made available to suitable persons with drastic facial deformity.

Keywords: Consent Forms, Tissue Transplantation - methods, Risk, Quality of Life, Informed Consent, Human Experimentation, Face - pathology, Ethics, Medical, Face - pathology, Tissue Transplantation - methods, Risk, Quality of Life, Informed Consent, Human Experimentation, Consent Forms, Ethics, Medical