Bioethics News

Penis transplant and its future possibilities. Medical and ethical assessment

According to an article published in JAMA (315; 1322-1324) in April 2016, between 2001 and 2013, more than 1300 men in the United States army who had been posted to Afghanistan or Iraq experienced urogenital trauma; 86 of these suffered severe penile injuries. According to the US administration, this group of men were 24 years old or younger when they suffered the trauma.

In view of this serious problem, Arthur L. Burnett, professor of urology at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore is preparing a penis transplantation programme.

The first attempted transplant of this organ was performed in Guangzhou General Hospital in China, but failed. The patient was a 44-year-old man who had suffered trauma to the penis, and who was transplanted with a penis harvested from a 22-year-old man who had died in an accident. However, the transplanted organ was removed after 14 days because the patient and his wife were psychologically unable to accept this type of transplant.

The first successful transplant was performed 8 years later by a team of surgeons led by André van de Merwe, of the urology department of Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. The patient was a 21-year-old man who had had to have his penis amputated after complications following circumcision. According to a spokesperson from the University, around 250 penis amputations are performed in South Africa as a result of problems related with circumcision. The operation lasted 9 hours, was very successful, and the man recovered his sexual activity, showing no secondary psychological problems.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.