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Face Transplants

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Ten British people have put their names forward to become the first in the world to undergo a face transplant.

Details on plans for the pioneering operation will be announced by surgeons within days.

Teams on both sides of the Atlantic are now confident they have the skills to attempt the operation.

Surgeons insist the procedure, which involves transplanting an entire face from a corpse to a living person, will only be available for patients with the most severe facial disfigurements - and not as a cosmetic vanity treatment.

The team leading the project in the UK hopes to begin carrying out medical and psychological assessments on the 10 possible candidates early next year.

But the proposal has already sparked huge controversy, with the Royal College of Surgeons preparing to raise new concerns this week.

Their reservations could delay the British team for months - allowing Americans to make the first attempt. A source close to the UK team said: "Things are coming together. It is exciting. There are important hurdles to overcome but things are moving forward."

Momentum for the operation is gathering pace after years of painstaking groundwork. Plastic surgeon Peter Butler, who will lead any UK attempt, believes the radical procedure offers remarkable new hope for patients with very severe facial disfigurements, particularly burns.

Mr Butler, based at London's Royal Free Hospital, argues that the surgery could transform the lives of patients whose appearance cannot be improved using established techniques.

The Royal College of Surgeons set up a working party to consider its views on the operation amid a fierce public debate over the operation earlier this year.

In a key report to be published on 19 November, members will highlight a catalogue of concerns - focusing on the huge psychologicaland emotional difficulties patients associated with having a dead person's face.

Insiders say it is likely to take months for the British team to address the findings - allowing American colleagues to overtake.

The American attempt is being led by John Barker, director of plastic surgery research at Louisville University, in Kentucky.

Next week he will fly to London to reveal the latest on his team's progress at a high-profile debate on face transplants to be held at the Science Museum.

He said today: "We are very optimistic about being able to go ahead with this operation in the near future."

The biggest obstacle for the UK and American teams will be satisfying critics that the procedure is ethical. Although the Royal College does not have the power to block the operation in Britain, its report will form the basis for discussionsby an ethics committee at the Royal Free Hospital, where the proposed face transplant would take place.

The committee - made up of doctors and lay members - will advise hospital bosses whether to allow Mr Butler to operate.

If they agree, surgeons would carefully remove the face of a donor within 24 hours of death and graft it on to the patient.

The survey - expected to be published in a leading medical journal next month - suggests that, in practice, surgeons will have difficulties in finding a suitable donor. A source said: "There aren't many people who like the thought of donating their own face, or agreeing to allow a relative's face to be used."

Face transplants have featured in a number of films including the 1997 Hollywood thriller Face/Off, when an FBI agent "borrows" the face of a criminal.

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Wow!! So... do you want to look like John Travolta or Nick Cage?

OK ... I would like to put my name down for Michelle Pfeiffers face biggrin.gif

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I read this a couple of months ago. As always, I don't think it would be as drastic as it sounds. You would still have your own bones I believe, so you would still kind of look like yourself and of course you would have to keep your eyes.

The donors aren't using their faces anymore so I would have no problem with it. I'm for almost anything which would make someone feel better about themselves. I imagine they would still need to go through the tissue matching process as for other types of transplants.

I just wish they would hurry up with genetic engineering which would allow me to delete any acne or other health problems I might have and regenerate my skin. Am I asking too much????

Peace,

Anna

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Guest Tracy

The whole thing is just extremely disturbing to me........

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Would they have to pick a face from someone with a similar shaped skull so the features match up? I mean gosh, there's a lot variation in just mouth size alone.

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Why do they have to use dead peoples faces. Why not just take some cells from the person who needs the new face and clone them. The tissue would be a perfect match and not rejected by the body.

Surgeons have already attached dead peoples hands to people who have lost them , why should the face be any different.

I do however find this whole idea disgusting. I`d rather have a disfigured face than a dead persons face hanging on my face, and then theres the immun suppresent drugs.... no way

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I never understood why helathy skin from say, the back cant be removed and put somewhere else. Its yours and it is fresh after all. Must be easier than reattaching limbs.

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creepy..... oh well... time to hire an assassin for Brad Pitt hahaha, seriously this is too freaky.....

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BBC covered this a few months ago and it sounds wierd, but if you couldn't leave your home or have a job because your face is severely disfigured then it should be allowed.

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UK Viewers:

Watch GMTV - Good morning show -

Channel 3 (UK) tomorrow (19th Nov) around 11amish..

They're going to show the operation on TV.

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