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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

face/choice

Face transplants are something that have been pondered for a while now but have yet to be attempted. Today's New York Times has an update in "A New Face: A Bold Surgeon, an Untried Surgery":
A team led by Dr. Siemionow is planning to undertake what may be the most shocking medical procedure to occur in decades: a face transplant.

After years of heated scientific debate over ethics and technical feasibility, the Cleveland Clinic last fall became the first institution to approve this novel surgery. Already Dr. Siemionow's group is searching for its first patient.

An amateur photographer - portraits of faces, mostly - with a talkative, almost merry demeanor, Dr. Siemionow is not the sort one expects to find center stage in a medical danse macabre. But this is no ordinary procedure, and she is no ordinary scientist.
I can't imagine what it would be like to have no face, but I can certainly understand that someone without one might want to undergo such a novel and risky procedure. Not everyone thinks these poor souls should be allowed to do so, of course:
"This idea needs more evaluation. What we do know either can't be quantified or the risks clearly outweigh the benefits," said Karen Maschke, the associate for ethics and science policy at the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute in Garrison, N.Y. "Look, a lot of science is boosterism.

"People always think they're going to be cured by new treatments and life will be normal again, but that's usually not the case."

Dr. Siemionow disputes the notion that facially disfigured patients should not be allowed to decide the risks, asking, "How can people who are normal decide for burn victims 'This is not right for you'?"
Maschke makes it sounds like this is some kind of trivial cosmetic surgery like a boob job. Screw you, Maschke! Kudos to Dr. Siemionow for correctly noting that it's the patient who should make the choice.

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