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Eminent Domain Stuff

New London Update (2/24/06)
Coverage of the Rally at New London's City Hall (w/ pics)

Saturday, September 18, 2004


Face Off

Yet another Sci-Fi type thing seems poised to move from the sliver screen to reality:

Doctors prepared to do face transplant

This is an interesting ethical issue. Obviously a face transplant is fundamentally different from, say, a kidney transplant. A person's face is so integral to our interpersonal relationships that it's hard to imagine the effect of a complete and radical change. Obviously, we have had plastic surgery since around WWI, and people have had to deal with facial disfigurement throughout history. But this would be the first time that we would be able to so radically alter someone's appearance.

There are a lot of good arguments on both sides of this issue, but before I bother considering any of those I have a question: Just how drastically would a face transplant change a person's appearance?

I'm not sure the movie Face/Off does justice to the exact effect on one's looks. Obviously, the skin and color and texture would be that of the original 'owner.' However, the underlying bone and cartilage structure would be that of the recipient. So putting John Travolta's skin on Nicholas Cage's face wouldn't have quite the effect that the movie would have you think. However, I honestly don't know just how drastic the change would be. I suppose it's entirely possible to use some computer program to at least get an idea of the effect, but not by me. Does anyone have the capability? I'd be really interested, and it might just have an effect on the outcome of the debate.

As for the arguments pro and con. The pro side is pretty straightforward. People who have been disfigured can have a very difficult, or even impossible, time adjusting. Giving them a new face might be just what they need.

In the middle, neither an argument pro nor con...those supporting such surgery will say that such procedures will be reserved only for those who need it. This is most definitely false. I'm sure the same thing was said about plastic surgery as it was being developed for horribly burned post-WWI soldiers. We can all see what happened with that.

Arguments against face transplants are summarized (somewhat poorly) in the article:

Rumsey, the English researcher, wrote that potential recipients might have to wait a long time for suitable donors and might be tempted to put their lives on hold in the interim. They might also have to endure lots of media coverage, she said. Socially, she wrote, such a procedure might convey the notion that people can't live well with disfiguring conditions.
I just don't see how any of these arguments are less persuasive in terms of regular old plastic surgery. Might not someone put his/her life on hold until after the plastic surgery? What about the fact that the prevalence of plastic surgery does "convey the notion that people can't live well with disfiguring conditions"? I guess these arguments just strike me as stale, rehashed concerns that are raised whenever something new comes along. I think the debate would benefit from more specific potential problems.

In the end, I still think the most important question that needs to be addressed it just how much will this change a person's facial appearance. Only with that established can we even begin to consider how the procedure will affect a person's life in general.


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