Ethics of facial transplantation revisited

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Abstract

Purpose of review

There have been 26 cases of facial transplantation reported, and three deaths, 11.5%. Mortality raises the issue of risk versus benefit for face transplantation, a procedure intended to improve quality of life, rather than saving life. Thus, one of the most innovative surgical procedures has opened the debate on the ethical, legal, and philosophical aspects of face transplantation.

Recent findings

Morbidity in face transplant recipients includes infections and metabolic consequences. No graft loss caused by technical failure, hyperacute, or chronic graft rejection or graft-versus-host disease has been reported. One case of posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder, 3.45% and one case of lymphoma in an HIV-positive recipient were reported. Psychological issues in candidates can include chronic pain, mood disorders, preexisting psychotic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse.

Summary

Early publications on ethical aspects of face transplantation focused mainly on informed consent. Many other ethical issues have been identified, including lack of coercion, donor family consent and confidentiality, respect for the integrity of the donor's body, and financial promotion of the recipient and transplant team, as well as the cost to society for such a highly technical procedure, requiring lifelong immunosuppression.

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