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Face Transplantation

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Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics

Abstract

Facial transplantation is no longer a science fiction; it is a science fact. The 28 transplants that were performed between 2005 and 2014 appear to have yielded mainly positive functional, psychological, aesthetic, and immunological outcomes for the recipients. This nevertheless remains a significant intervention, which gives rise to three sorts of ethical concerns. First, the welfare of the recipient merits careful consideration. The issues here include those concerning quality of life, as well as the risks associated with immunosuppression and the possible failure of the graft. Secondly, the autonomy and identity of the recipients raise important questions, not least about the selection of such patients. Of particular significance here are concerns about informed consent, capacity, age, and any psychological effects on the recipient. Finally, there are the broader societal dimensions to consider. Is facial transplantation in the public interest? Certainly, the interests of the donor, and his or her family, are important considerations, but there also arise wider questions about cost and also regarding societal attitudes to disfigurement and difference. Although ultimately defensible in principle, facial transplantation merits ongoing scrutiny to ensure that appropriate ethical standards are always met.

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Further Readings

  • Agich, G. J., & Siemionow, M. (2004). Facing the ethical questions in facial transplantation. The American Journal of Bioethics, 4, 25–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Huxtable, R., & Woodley, J. (2005). Gaining face or losing face? Framing the debate on face transplants. Bioethics, 19, 505–522.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Khalifian, S., Brazio, P. S., Mohan, R., Shaffer, C., Brandacher, G., Barth, R. N., & Rodriguez, E. D. (2014). Facial transplantation: The first 9 years. The Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62632-X.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kiwanuka, H., Bueno, E. M., Diaz-Siso, J. R., Sisk, G. C., Lehmann, L. S., & Pomahac, B. (2013). Evolution of ethical debate on face transplantation. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 132(6), 1558–1568.

    Article  Google Scholar 

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Correspondence to Richard Huxtable .

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Huxtable, R. (2015). Face Transplantation. In: ten Have, H. (eds) Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05544-2_188-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05544-2_188-2

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Chapter history

  1. Latest

    Face Transplantation
    Published:
    24 February 2015

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05544-2_188-2

  2. Original

    Face Transplantation
    Published:
    17 December 2014

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05544-2_188-1