German surgeons question face transplants

3rd June 2004, Comments 0 comments

3 June 2004 , MUNICH - Leading German facial surgeons Thursday questioned plans by US doctors to carry out face transplants. Doctors at a congress in Aachen acknowledged that face transplants were now technically possible but warned of the psychological risks involved. "One should ask oneself whether one can or should carry out everything that is technically possible," Professor Dieter Riediger told a three-day conference of facial surgery specialists. Riediger, who is chairing the conference, said that en

3 June 2004

MUNICH - Leading German facial surgeons Thursday questioned plans by US doctors to carry out face transplants.

Doctors at a congress in Aachen acknowledged that face transplants were now technically possible but warned of the psychological risks involved.

"One should ask oneself whether one can or should carry out everything that is technically possible," Professor Dieter Riediger told a three-day conference of facial surgery specialists.

Riediger, who is chairing the conference, said that ensuring blood supply to the transplanted face would not be a problem. However, the new face would resemble an expressionless mask, he said.

He said experience with the world's first hand transplant in the United States had shown that the patient had become alienated by his new hand and wanted it amputated.

The debate followed news that US doctors had carried out face transplants on dead bodies donated for medical research, and now wanted to carry out the procedure on living patients.

If approved, the procedure is likely to be offered to people with severe facial injuries, burns or disfigurement.

Professor Michael Ehrenfeld from Munich told the conference the psychological consequences of a face transplant would be immense. Patients looking in the mirror after such an operation would no longer be able to recognize themselves, he said.

"The patient would have a huge identification problem," he said.

Professor Karsten Gundlach from Rostock said: "When you look in the mirror in the morning you can see exactly how you feel," he said. That would not be the case with a new face resembling a mask, he said.

DPA

Subject: German news 

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