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February 2, 2004


Face Off

LA Times has an interesting piece on face transplants, which a group of doctors at the University of Louisville in Kentucky are hoping to launch within the year. For victims of severe facial injuries, a transplant could make all the difference in living a normal life, but many people are worried about the resulting identity issues and just plain creepiness of wearing a dead person's face for the rest of your life. Since a patient's bone structure would still be their own, they would retain some of their original looks, but their features would be totally changed.

The doctors say the technology has existed for 10 years to do this kind of surgery, and the procedure would be far less complex than reconstructive surgery that badly injured patients undergo now. They would also have to take immune system supressants for the rest of their lives. What I wonder is, if this procedure is approved and becomes somewhat routine, how much choice will patients have in selecting their new face? What if you had to look like John Travolta? Will there be some cases where really ugly people would actually elect to have a new face transplanted onto their heads? Would patients accept the face of a donor if they were of a different race? There seems to be no way to predict how a transplant patient would react to having an entirely new face, but it seems that some identity struggles could result.

categories: Science
posted by amy at 11:40 AM | #