Many men who lost their penis or any other part of reproductive organ face their injury in silence because of the stigma it carries. Losing one’s manhood is not something you could share with people without raising eyebrows or start a nasty gossip. So much so that the first recorded penis transplant took place in China in 2006 was later removed due to “a severe psychological problem of the recipient and his wife,” The Star reported.
Earlier this week, Time had reported the world first penis, scrotum and partial abdominal wall transplant on an American military veteran who was injured by improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Afghanistan. The patient wished to remain anonymous but after the 14-hour surgery, a statement by the hospital recorded him saying this: “It’s a real mind-boggling injury to suffer, it is not an easy one to accept,
“When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal… [with] a level of confidence as well. Confidence… like finally I’m okay now.”
The first of its kind transplant was performed by nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine last month on March 26, the hospital announced on Monday (Apr 23). The surgery lasted 14 hours and it’s said to be the first of its kind because it transplanted more than just a penis from the deceased donor but also scrotum and partial abdominal wall. The donor’s testicles weren’t transplanted due to ethical reasons, concurred by the team of surgeons, adding that such a transplant could allow genetic material to be passed on from the donor.
Wow. That’s true. Doing so would mean the recipient shouldn’t be allowed to conceive with the donor’s family as it’s “genetically incestuous”. Other complications such as familial legacy also raise an ethical concern.
According to Times, a penis transplant is a complicated surgery as it involves microscopic connection of nerves as well as arteries, veins, the urethra and the skin which came from a donor to a recipient. Each penis injury is different depending which parts are removed but the surgeons at Johns Hopkins hoped that this procedure could at least restore men’s defining organs. “We are hopeful that this transplant will help restore near-normal urinary and sexual functions for this young man,” said professor and director of plastic and reconstructive surgery of the university, Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, adding that other men are now undergoing screening for the procedure to understand their situation or to find suitable donors.
Toronto Star reported some penis transplants use the recipients’ own skin to reconstruct the form of a penis and in such cases implants may be used to achieve erection. The surgery involves high risks too as the recipient may face rejection of the tissue and side effects coming from anti-rejection drugs that must be taken for life.
The Johns Hopkins team is working towards making the procedure more prevalently available with a goal in mind to help wounded veterans. Times reported that a report in 2016 found that 1,367 men from the US military force suffered genital-related injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan from 2001 to 2013. 94% of them are 35 or younger and most of the injuries resulted from bomb blasts. Over a third of such cases were considered severe. “Many men sustained disfiguring genital injuries during their peak years of sexual development and reproductive potential,” the report stated.
Currently, the procedure is experimental thus it’s not covered by insurance, and undergoing one would mean paying $50,000 to $75,000 (approx. RM195k- RM297k) in medical fees. Johns Hopkins covered the veteran’s cost and the team is applying for research fund that could cover expenses of future procedures.
The world’s first two successful penis transplants were in South Africa and the third was in Massachusetts General Hospital, US, on a patient who lost his penis due to penile cancer.
What an incredible medical breakthrough! What are your thoughts on this? Are there any other ethical concerns you can think of if the doctors were to transplant donors’ testicles on the recipient? Let us know in the comments below.