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Delineating the role of penile transplantation when traditional male circumcisions go wrong in South Africa
  1. Stuart Rennie1,3,
  2. Keymanthri Moodley2
  1. 1 Social Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2 Centre for Medical Ethics and Law, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa
  3. 3 Center for Bioethics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Stuart Rennie, Social Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA; stuart_rennie{at}med.unc.edu

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Back in 2017, Moodley and Rennie published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled ‘Penile transplantation as an appropriate response to botched traditional circumcisions in South Africa: an argument against.’1 As the title suggests, we took a critical view towards penile transplantation as a way of responding to the problem of young men in South Africa experiencing genital mutilation and amputation as a result of traditional circumcision practices. Our main conclusion was that prevention is key: social, cultural and political strategies to prevent mutilations and amputations should be prioritised, rather than surgical solutions, particularly in low-resource communities. Van der Merwe, who led the surgical team for the first successful penile transplantation in Stellenbosch, South Africa, has responded to our views, and in what follows, we will distill and evaluate his main arguments.

Cost and access to services: Van der Merwe states that our position is mostly based on costs, that is, that penile transplantation is expensive and it is unrealistic to think that young men in traditional communities will be able to avail themselves of such services. Against this, Van Der Merwe argues that the actual cost of penile transplantation can be favourably compared with another, more established medical intervention, that is, renal transplantation. Of course, cost comparisons are difficult with a new intervention when it is …

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