London: A British hospital is about to carry out he world’s first full-face transplant.
The hospital’s ethical committee is expected to announce this week that it will approve the first operations.
Royal Free Hospital plastic surgeon Peter Butler has been contacted by 29 disfigured volunteers willing to undergo the procedure.
“My aim is not to be first, but to do it on the right patient,” Dr Butler said.
“It would be very dangerous to look at it as a race because it could harm the patient and (the reputation of) the procedure,” Dr Butler told the Sunday Times. He said one potential candidate was a 22-year-old badly burned as a child.
Last year, surgeons in France carried out the world’s first partial face transplant. Mother of two Isabelle Dinoire, 38, had her nose, lips and chin replaced after being savaged by her dog in May 2005.
In April, a hospital in China conducted what is believed to be the second partial face transplant on Li Guoxing, 30.
Dr Butler’s 30-strong team has spent 10 years studying face transplants.
“We don’t know how people will react. Does the Government want us to go ahead with this? We just don’t know. But a huge amount of work has been done with the group of patients who might benefit.
“Many of them have very disfiguring injuries and spend their lives indoors so for them this is not just life-enhancing surgery, it is life-saving because it gives them back the chance to join society.
“You can do more and more research but at some point the leap has to be made, and people have to say, `OK, we’ve done our preparation, let’s get behind this’.”