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Face transplantation for the blind: more than being blind in a sighted world
  1. Joseph Lee
  1. College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Joseph Lee, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia; joseph.lee{at}flinders.edu.au

Abstract

Face transplantation (FT) is a landmark in reconstructive surgery involving vascularised composite allotransplantation. A recent issue of FT for patients who are blind has arisen. Some bioethicists recommend not excluding a patient who is blind, as this may amount to discrimination. From an ethical standpoint, FT for those with blindness is appropriate in selected candidates. This article seeks to add to the clinical evidence supporting FT for those with blindness by detailing a complementary psychosocial perspective. Currently, there is little relevant research about the subjectivity of the blind. This is critical since the arguments against FT for the blind refer to their inability to see their face and to view the reaction of others to their disfigured faces. We begin with a brief look at examples of FT involving blindness and associated arguments. The next part is a multidisciplinary investigation of the experiences of the blind. These are gleaned from a close reading of the literature and drawing inferences, as direct studies are rare. The discussion analyses identity themes of the blind in relation to their faces: as they experience it; the face they wish to show to the world; and how others perceive and react to their face in a saturated environment of imagery and visual communication. Disability and the blind person’s experience of faces are well-founded considerations for medical practitioners and ethics boards in the process of FT decision-making.

  • transplantation
  • ethics
  • disability
  • psychology
  • persons

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Footnotes

  • Contributors JL is the sole author of the article.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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