Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Face Transplant: We Can Do it, But is it Right?

As far as I can tell, the answer is a conditional "yes."

Face transplants are a medical procedure that replaces part or all of one person's face with part or all of another's.

There are drawbacks: from what I read, people getting a new face have to have their immune system suppressed for the rest of their life. That's a bit more than an inconvenience, but I suspect it might be preferable to living without a face.

Face transplants got in the news today, when an American woman who had gone through the procedure held a news conference. She's the first person in this country to receive a face transplant. Connie Culp lost her nose, cheeks and upper jaw when her husband tried to kill her with a shotgun, as part of a murder-suicide.

Before the transplant, she breathed through a hole in her neck, couldn't smell, couldn't chew solid food, and could barely speak.

(from Brisbane Times, used w/o permission)

(from CNN, used w/o permission)

The nerves in her new face haven't grown in yet - connections are growing in at a rate of about an inch a month - but she can chew her food now, and can speak more easily.

Which is good news.

She expects to get more control over her new face as months and years go by, and be able to smile, frown, and make the many other expressions we use.

Her husband, Thomas, is serving a 7-year sentence. He shot himself, but failed to finish the job that time, too. (AC) Just as well: there's a chance that he'll re-evaluate his priorities and personal philosophy now.

The Catholic Church and Organ Transplants

The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions organ transplants in Article 5 The Fifth Commandment. That's " 'You shall not kill.' " (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17) And the followup:
" 15 16 'You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, "You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment." 17But I say to you, whoever is angry 18 with his brother will be liable to judgment....' "
(Matthew 5: 21-22)
That's more about not killing people even if you feel like it, than about contemporary medical procedures. Here's something about transplants:
"Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good that is sought for the recipient...."
(Catechism, 2296)
Okay, that's clear enough: organ transplants are okay, provided that the benefit/risk ratio is proportionate.

What about donating organs?
"...Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorous act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity...."
The same paragraph points out that it's not "morally acceptable" if the donor or the donor's proxy has not given consent to donate the organs. Also, that it's not right to kill someone so that their organs can be harvested. Not even if doing so will delay the death of someone else. (2296 - again)

So, as far as I can tell: (voluntarily) donating your organs is encouraged, organ transplants to restore normal function are okay.

In the news:

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.