The ethics of face transplants

The ethics of face transplants is among the issues to be discussed at the World Congress of Bioethics, which will be hosted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) next week.

Face Transplantation: Surveying the Preliminary Ethical Issues, follows the announcement by a British surgical team of their intention to attempt this controversial procedure.

While recognising that the technique carries too many risks to be sanctioned, the authors predict it cannot be long before it transcends from science fiction to reality.

“This might epitomise the “yuk factor” to many people,” said one of the report authors, Julie Woodley, from the University of the West of England. “But equally it has the potential to benefit those individuals with severe facial disfigurement occurring congenitally or as a result of trauma or cancer.”

Some of the issues raised in the paper include society’s inability to deal with the unusual, concerns about confidentiality and maintaining anonymity of the recipient or donor.

Other highlights of the 7th biennial Congress, which runs from 9 – 12 November, include:

  • Should selecting saviour siblings be banned?
  • Robbing Peter to pay Paul: the Inappropriate Use of Children in Compelled Organ donation
  • Organ donation and the family veto
  • Xenotransplantation as a strategy to reverse diabetes
  • What is the ethical basis for paternal rights and responsibilities?
  • Assisted conceptions: Twenty years down the tube?
  • The Ethics of researching with vulnerable refugee populations

For more information and for abstracts, go to


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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