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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 14:38 GMT
Face transplants: Would you donate your face?
A consultant plastic surgeon at London's Royal Free Hospital is to call for a debate about whether face transplants should take place.

Peter Butler said surgical techniques would allow the procedure to take place within the next six to nine months.

Patients whose faces have been seriously disfigured by cancer, burns or accidents could be helped by such transplants.

However, it was essential for a moral and ethical debate to take place before anyone underwent the operation.

Mr Butler, a consultant plastic surgeon at London's Royal Free Hospital, will discuss the issues surrounding face transplants at the British Association of Plastic Surgeons in London on Wednesday.

What do you think of the prospect of face transplants? Would you donate your face?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

A face is not a personality, only a cover for the front of one's head. Your personality dies when you die so you really wouldn't have to worry about this if you donated your beautiful face. I am a rehabilitation technologist and in 17 years in the field have seen some of the saddest, painful and ugly facial injuries you could describe. If donating a face will alleviate the pain and suffering of another person whose face is disfigured by accident, disease or burns, well they can have mine. Bravo to the surgeon and God speed.
Gus Fulani, U.S.A

It's a shame that so many are claiming their faces as representation of their entire self worth, it is an element rather, that adds to the entire package, not the whole package itself. Let's not be so shallow and selfish. What is really more important; an open-casket at my funeral, or giving a needy person a part of myself.
Stefania, UK

I see this as no different than donating an organ. After you are dead, you have no need for any of these things, and the prospect of helping someone who would otherwise have to deal with the debilitating social and psychological effects of having a severe facial disfigurement should be as welcome as donating something like a kidney. I think those who are afraid of "seeing" a loved one's face on someone else are not thinking logically about how the process would actually work.
Jeanette, Canada

Those that are against it are being a tad selfish

Trev, Wales
My son was badly burnt on the whole of his upper body two years ago, suffering massive facial disfigurement. Amazingly, and thanks to the doctors and teams, along with the modern plastic skin techniques learnt since the Falklands, he has made a good recovery. However, this has taken two years of shear purgatory for him. If this suffering could have been lessened by transplant, isn't this a good thing. Those that are against it are being a tad selfish!
Trev, Wales

Do you honestly think people will donate their face? It is different to donate organs as during the funeral you still can see your loved one. If you donate their face you can't do that. I think this is going too far.
Jan, Seattle, USA

Once I'm dead, my face will just decompose. The option of having that bit of me live on seems pleasant in comparison.
Erich Walrath, USA

My sister died recently and if I saw someone with her face it would make me quite happy

Gini Ellis, USA
I see nothing ethically or morally wrong with face transplants. We see people who look like other people all the time - it's actually quite interesting if it was someone you liked. My sister died recently and if I saw someone with her face it would make me quite happy! If the face isn't used after death, it'll just decay and turn to dust. Let someone else benefit from that usable skin if it will make their life worth living and make them happy to face the world each day.
Gini Ellis, USA

You can have my face but I pity the poor devil that will have to wear it!
Paul B, Oxfordshire, UK

I think this is a wonderful idea and would donate my face for anyone who would want it. I hope the idea gains approval and wish it could have already been possible for all the folks who have and are suffering terrible disfigurements.
Mary Beth, USA

No one should ever donate something that is so unique

Amelia, Singapore
I think it's okay to donate one of your organs but donating your face? I don't think so. Everyone's face is unique whether it's pimpled, scarred or burnt. No one should ever donate something that is so unique and makes a part of who you are and what you look like. Imagine what you would do if you saw someone with your face walking down the street. I would be shocked.
Amelia, Singapore

My father who I loved dearly and miss greatly died recently and the thought of in the future, seeing the face of my father on someone else would be very upsetting.
Caroline Cavenett, United Kingdom

The difference between a donated face and a donated heart is only in people's minds. Someone receiving a face will not necessarily end up looking exactly like the donor. As the donated face moulds itself around the recipient's bone structure, it will inevitably take on a new shape. Remember forensic archaeologists use skull shape to reconstruct the topology of external features. So I don't think that potential donors should worry that 'they' will be seen walking the streets after their death.
David Wiseman, Oxford, UK

My face makes me who I am

Anth, England
You could argue that this is helping people but to me my face is the main part of me that gives me my identity, makes me different from other people and makes me who I am.
Anth, England

I'd definitely donate my face. I had an operation that gave me a facial disfigurement that only lasted a few days but it made me think. I'd donate any part of my body that can be used.
Katy, UK

My face has been rejected enough by enough bodies while I'm alive without risking it happening again after I'm dead.
Pete, UK

Whilst I certainly wouldn't donate or receive, it would make secret agents' jobs easier, a la Mission Impossible.
Jamie, UK

The person with the transplant will not become you

Katie, UK
There's a lot more to a person than there face - the person with the transplant will not become you. I can see how psychologically it could be very difficult to wake up with someone else's face, but I'd think less difficult than waking up without a face you can show anyone.
Katie, UK

I hold a donor card but would object to my face being transplanted. It's not that I would have any need for it but the distress it is likely to cause my family would be enormous. I can foresee all sorts of horrors. My Mum seeing my face in the street, if the person was on the news for anything (especially if they have committed a crime).
Louise, England

I'm all for organ donation, however there are huge ethical problems with the donation of a face. In the modern world the face is our identity. I'm against it.
Andy, UK

Why should a face invite more debate than a kidney or a liver?

LK, England
I don't see why there is any moral or ethical issue here at all. Why should the transplantation of a face invite more debate than that of a kidney or a liver? Notwithstanding those who oppose transplantation for religious or naive emotional reasons, I suspect that the main outcry will come from those who are happy to accept transplantation when it is 'hidden' but are unable to stare death, quite literally, in the face.
LK, England

Differences in bone and muscle structure would mean that although it was a new skin, the appearance would not be identical to the donor. I can see this would be of tremendous benefit to those that have been severely disfigured. If someone wants my ugly mug when I no longer need it, I'd be happy to let them have it!
Stu, UK

I guess this will be like all transplants, controversial to begin with and routine 10 years later.
Simon, England

Surely this will not be much different than a skin graft?
Joanne, UK

I don't know why anyone would want my face, but would never let anyone take it anyway. The thought of someone with my face wandering around is quite creepy.
Sarah, UK

I wouldn't have any objections. After my demise all my face will be is a bit of dead skin.
Dougal McKinnon, UK

I will be donating all my organs but I think a face would be a step too far.
Anne, UK

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27 Nov 02 | Health
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