While penis reconstruction surgeries are routinely performed on patients who are born with defects, have suffered injuries, or are undergoing gender reassignment procedures, using skin flaps from elsewhere on the patients’ bodies, only one known penis transplant has been performed worldwide, and that was in South Africa in 2014 after the patient’s circumcision went horribly wrong.
It is estimated that penis transplantation surgery will cost between $200,000 and $400,000, and typically will not be covered by health insurance. The recipient of a transplanted penis will be at risk for many of the same complications faced by recipients of other transplanted human organs: infection, rejection of the transplanted organ, and the medical consequences arising out of the immunosuppressant medications that transplant recipients are required to take.
Johns Hopkins has already approved 60 penis transplant procedures after analysis by an internal review panel. Patient number one is reported to be a member of the U.S. military services who was seriously wounded while serving in Afghanistan. The patient is not a candidate for penis reconstruction surgery due to the extent of his injuries. Johns Hopkins has agreed to pay for the operating room time for the first penis transplant surgery and Johns Hopkins physicians have agreed to donate their time for the first penis transplant procedure. The Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to provide the necessary follow-up care.
At first blush it may seem a no-brainer that U.S. military servicemen should be able to obtain a penis transplant to address such devastating war-related injuries because of their sacrifice in service to their country. But the major issue seems to be that penis transplants are not life-saving procedures, such as kidney transplants, liver transplants, and other organ transplants. The national transplant waiting list includes more than 121,000 patients in need of transplants, and “merit” is not a consideration in placing names on the transplant waiting list or the priority of the names on the transplant waiting list. (More than 670,000 transplants have occurred in the U.S. since 1988.)
And there are numerous ethical considerations regarding penis transplants that still must be addressed: e.g., what is necessary in order for hospitals to obtain appropriate approval for penis transplant procedures from donors, or their loved ones; to what extent are the feelings of donors’ sexual partners taken into consideration?
Nonetheless, it appears that a significant number of male U.S. military personnel who served in Iraq and in Afghanistan have suffered devastating trauma to their genitals: the U.S. Department of Defense Trauma Registry lists approximately 1,367 male servicemen who have suffered genitourinary injuries from 2001 to 2013 (there is no indication how many of those individuals could benefit from a penis transplant).
Source: The Baltimore Sun, February 28, 2016.
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