PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This review provides an overview of the ethical issues associated with face transplantation, a form of composite tissue allografting.
RECENT FINDINGS: Human facial transplantation, an experimental technique, has been performed twice in the world. Both cases involved transplantation of a partial face. To date, transplantation of a full face has not been done. Ethical issues involve both the graft donor and the graft recipient. With regard to the recipient, significant concerns relate to surgical risks and benefits, informed consent, identity and body image (including surgical expectations and outcomes), and compliance. Donor issues include family consent and privacy, as well as graft harvesting (leaving the donor without a face).
SUMMARY: Many of the ethical issues can be explored during the individual's assessment and consent process. Because no medium-term or long-term outcome data are available and only two cases have been done, the burdens and ethical problems of facial transplantation remain unknown.