WASHINGTON (AP) — Sure, your liver or kidney could save someone’s life. But would you donate your hands or your face? Signing up to become an organ donor might get more complicated than just checking a box on your driver’s license.
The government is preparing to regulate the new field of hand and face transplants like it does standard organ transplants, giving more Americans who are disabled or disfigured by injury, illness or combat a chance at this radical kind of reconstruction.
Among the first challenges is deciding how people should consent to donate these very visible body parts that could improve someone’s quality of life — without deterring them from traditional donation of hearts, lungs and other internal organs needed to save lives.
“Joe Blow is not going to know that now an organ is defined as also including a hand or a face,” said Dr. Suzanne McDiarmid, who chairs the committee of the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, that will develop the new policies during the next few months.
Making that clear to potential donors and their families is critical — “otherwise we could undermine public trust,” said McDiarmid, a transplant specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles.