1. Health
Cory Silverberg

World's First Penis Transplant Succeeds and Fails

By September 19, 2006

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According to a story in yesterday’s Guardian Unlimited, a team of Chinese surgeons performed the world’s first penis transplant on a man whose penis was severely damaged in an accident this year. Similar surgeries to reattach penises that have been severed have been performed, but this was the first time a penis from a donor was used.

Initially the surgery was considered a success, with signs of good blood flow to the newly attached penis, and no indications of organ rejection.

However, according to the news item the penis had to be removed two weeks following the surgery as it was causing “severe psychological problem[s]” for both the recipient and his wife.

The Guardian story discusses similar psychological problems that can accompany transplants of visible body parts like hands, and even the recent face transplant performed in France. For example:

In 2001, surgeons were forced to amputate the world's first transplanted hand from Clint Hallam, a 50-year-old New Zealander, who said he wanted the "hideous and withered" hand removed because he had become "mentally detached" from it.

Coincidentally, another transplanted arm is in the news, only of a different kind. Claudia Mitchell, a former marine who lost her arm in a motorcycle accident was fitted with what is being billed as the first bionic arm that is controlled completely by her thoughts.

While these are obviously traumatic experiences for the people who receive transplants, the issues raised are also fascinating as they force us to reconsider what our bodies are.

Is my hand simply that thing at the end of my arm that is typing these words? If something else was there, and I could control it seamlessly with my thoughts, would it eventually become my hand? And does it matter if the hand came from someone else, or is completely robotic?

And do the issues change when we’re talking about our genitals?

This all reminds me of an amazing short story by Yasunari Kawabata called One Arm where a woman gives her male companion her arm to keep for an evening. It’s a slightly surreal and mesmerizing story that messes with ideas of where the boundaries and limits of our physical bodies really are.

Read more - Guardian Unlimited: Man rejects first penis transplant

Comments
September 26, 2006 at 5:06 pm
(1) Duane says:

Intrigueing to say the least. I don’t know if this is related but since I no longer have the use of my right hand for writing, etc, some people are often amazed that I adapted my left hand for needed tasks. But I explain that, like the accomplised artist (Joni is her first name) who paints with her foot, the skill is in ones’ brain, not the body part. Such is the rest of our body perception I would guess but a mere extension of our brain and a replacement part is, to some, inconceivable.

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