Ethicists' Opinions Regarding the Permissibility of Face Transplant

Marissa A. Suchyta, Richard Sharp, Hatem Amer, Elizabeth Bradley, Samir Mardini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Face transplantation can offer functional and aesthetic restoration to patients who have exhausted their reconstructive options, improving quality of life and psychosocial integration. Ethical issues in face transplantation abound, including questions of patient selection and evaluation before transplantation. To date, there has been no study of ethicists' opinions regarding face transplantation. Methods: An online survey of attendees of the 2015 International Conference on Clinical Ethics Consultation (n = 401) assessed ethicists' opinions about face transplantation. Questions examined the risk-to-benefit ratio of immunosuppression; permissibility of face transplantation in subpopulations (including children and blind patients); donor-recipient age, sex, and ethnicity mismatches; and ethical oversight. Results: Most ethicists (84 percent) agreed that it is permissible to perform a face transplantation on an adult in the absence of clear medical contraindications. Most respondents also agreed that it is permissible to perform a face transplantation on a child (62 percent) or a blind patient (61 percent), yet demonstrated less consensus regarding the permissibility of performing a face transplantation on patients with an increased risk of immune rejection. Respondents were generally supportive of age, sex, and ethnicity mismatches, with 43 percent indicating that it is permissible to have a sex mismatch. The majority answered that face transplantation should be covered by federal insurance (74 percent). Conclusions: This study provides insight into clinical ethicists' views regarding face transplantation. Most ethicists support the ethical permissibility of face transplantation, and did not have concerns about age, sex, and ethnicity mismatches. These findings highlight emerging areas of consensus regarding the ethical permissibility of face transplantation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-224
Number of pages13
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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