Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Crimes Below the Belt II: Beheaded

Penis Transplant?

Many who have suffered the unfortunate fate of losing their penis who were not candidates for surgical reattachment, often due to the organ's poor condition, have looked into the possibility of having a penis transplant. It was something that had never been attempted. That is, until September 2005 when "Chinese surgeons performed the world's first penis transplant on a man whose organ was damaged beyond repair in an accident..." and was "left with a one-centimeter-long stump with which he was unable to urinate or have sexual intercourse," Ian Sample reported in The Guardian.

Surgeons working
Surgeons working

Surgeons, led by Dr. Hu Weilie at Guangzhou General Hospital successfully attached a donor penis from a brain-dead 22-year-old man to the 44-year-old recipient who lost his penis in "an unfortunate accident," Associate Press reported. The 15-hour long transplant procedure initially proved to be a great surgical success in that blood flow was restored to the organ and the body didn't reject it. However, the benefits of the surgical procedure were overshadowed by the unforeseen adverse effects that severely hampered the recipient's quality of life.

Just two weeks after the operation and before complete function of the organ could be restored, the man surprised doctors when he begged to have the penis amputated. According to the surgeons who conducted the operation, the main reasons for the amputation were "because of the wife's psychological rejection, as well as the swollen shape of the transplanted penis," MSNBC News Services reported. Dr. Yoram Vardi, a neurology and urology specialist at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel suggested that if the recipient's psychological needs in relation to the transplant had been taken into consideration it is likely that "the need for penile amputation could probably have been avoided," it was further reported. In this case, psychological counseling might have been just as beneficial for the spouse of the recipient.

Clint Hallam of New Zealand
Clint Hallam of New Zealand

The critical need to address the psychological aspects of transplant surgery is further exemplified by another case, that of Clint Hallam of New Zealand who underwent the world's first hand transplant in 2001. Sample reported that after the operation, Hallam wanted the "hideous and withered" hand amputated because he had become "mentally detached" from it. Unfortunately, several other similar cases of psychological detachment from the transplanted organ or tissue have been recorded. According to Andrew George, a transplant expert at Imperial College, London, because of the psychological rejection of transplanted parts that many recipients experience, it has been questioned whether it's right to perform such transplants "for what may be seen as cosmetic reasons."

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