FACE TRANSPLANT CASE BREAKS LAW
Sally Bengtsson / 2009-08-27 11:51:32
Spain’s first face transplant operation two weeks ago provoked intense media coverage, to such an extent that the transplant surgeon, Pedro Cavadas, in a press conference, called for a stop to the intrusion on the patient and the donor’s family’s privacy.
The coverage led to a breach of confidentiality regulations regarding the identification of donors and recipients in such cases, the Health Ministry has admitted.
On August 20, the day after the operation, the Health Ministry issued a statement saying: “The leaking of information that allows identification of donors is expressly forbidden by law.” However, earlier that day leaks to the media had already led to the identification of the donor. Details of his life and the circumstances of his death were then published and broadcast in the national and local media. The family of the donor has since said that they will be taking legal action against those responsible for the identification of the man.
A Health Ministry spokesman apologized for the identification of the donor, and called for “a responsible approach from all parties.” The official warned that media and public scrutiny could create problems for the recipient. “If all goes well, he still faces tremendous challenges, and will need peace and quiet.” He also called for respect for the family of the donor, warning that potential donors for similar operations may be put off given the publicity that the case is receiving. Two more people are on the waiting list in the Valencia hospital where the operation was carried out.
The full-face transplant, only the eighth in the world, was carried out by a team of 30 medical staff led by transplant specialist Pedro Cavadas on August 19. The 43-year-old patient, who lost the lower half of his face during treatment for a malignant tumor 11 years ago, is recovering well and could be discharged from hospital just 10 days from now, Cavadas told a news conference the day after the 15-hour operation that included giving the recipient a new tongue and jaw.
“The patient should recover the capacity to speak intelligibly, to swallow, and will recover sensitivity in his tongue and his face,” Cavadas said. Cavadas went on to say that he had been forced to bring forward a press conference about the operation because press reports had revealed the identity of the donor.
The patient continued to make good progress, reporting that he had seen himself in a mirror and was so happy that he smiled.
Tags: Transplant, Medicine