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Peter A Clark
Med Sci Monit 2005; 11(2): RA41-47
In May 2004, researchers at the University of Louisville Medical Center in Kentucky submitted a 30-page detailed document to the University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) that outlines their plan for the first face transplant. Despite the fact that both the Royal College of Surgeons in England in 2003 and France’s Comité Consultatif National d’Ethique in 2004 issued reports saying that the risks of this surgery far outweigh the benefits to justify it at the present time, the IRB at the University of Louisville is presently studying the proposal. Even though the microsurgical skills and anatomical knowledge is well established, face transplantation is more than a matter of technical achievement. The psychological impact on recipients and donor families as well as the long-term risks of a lifetime of immunosuppressant drugs must also be considered. More time is needed to perfect this surgery so that the rejection rate can be lowered and the patient’s immune system can be taught to permanently tolerate the transplanted face. An ethical analysis will show that more time is needed to perfect this surgery so that the rejection rate can be lowered and the patient’s immune system can be taught to permanently tolerate the transplanted face. To permit this surgery now, when there are so many unknown, life-threatening dangers would be medically irresponsible and ethically objectionable.