First Full Face Transplant May Lead to New Market for Surgeons

The little red heart on your driver’s license now represents more than just vital organs like your heart or liver: it can represent your face.

The first full face transplant in the world was completed in a Barcelona hospital on a Spanish farmer about a month ago. This complex procedure took a surgical team of 30 and 24 hours in the operating room. During the surgery, doctors lifted an entire face, including jaw, nose, cheekbones, muscles, teeth and eyelids, and placed it masklike onto the man, Dr. Joan Pere Barret told The Associated Press on Friday.

The recipient had been involved in a gun accident which destroyed his entire face below the eye sockets. A ventilator did his breathing for him and he ate with a feeding tube. It has been called a success, but the patient will not be released from the Vall d’Hebron Hospital for another few months. His eyesight was unaffected by either the accident or the ten surgeries he has now undergone based on the cosmetic surgery anesthesia information. Doctors say he will have recovered enough to eat and breathe on his own in a week. This is a step forward in medicine, and the success of a surgery like this could pave the way for more routine transplants. But will plastic surgeons seize this opportunity to market a cure for insecurity?

Plastic surgery addiction is already a problem that Americans face in today’s competitive society. The Associated Press reported that unlike operations involving vital organs like hearts and livers, transplants of faces or hands are done to improve quality of life, not extend it. They make a good point.

Where would we draw the line? How could we separate those seeking out transplanted organs to “improve their quality of life” and those who see transplants, like plastic surgery, as a trend? What about those who claim to have psychological problems who blame their appearance for those problems?

Would Britney Spears be entitled to a hair transplant on the same level as a child with cancer who will never be able to grow hair again?

This is the reality we may be stepping into. With great power comes great responsibility, and we should make sure early on that we put that responsibility in the right hands.