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Government to Regulate Hand and Face Donors

Update Date: Dec 27, 2013 01:03 PM EST

With advances in technology and research, doctors have been able to perform surgical miracles. Within the past decades, doctors and medical specialists have transformed organ donations by successfully reconstructing areas of the body that have never been done before. For example, doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital completed a full-face transplant. Now, people can choose to donate nontraditional organs, such as hands and faces. The government plans on regulating the donation of these new organs.

"Joe Blow is not going to know that now an organ is defined as also including a hand or a face," said Suzanne McDiarmid, who chairs the committee of the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS reported by USA Today. "The consent process for the life-saving organs should not, must not, be derailed by a consent process for a different kind of organ, that the public might think of as being very different from donating a kidney or a heart or a liver,"

UNOS, which currently regulates the U.S. transplant program, will be in charge of creating the new policies within the upcoming months. One of the biggest obstacles that the new organ transplant system would need to overcome is determining how to get people to donate these nontraditional parts of their bodies. Since people are used to associating organ donations to internal organs, getting people to donate physical parts might be difficult.

So far, reconstructive transplants, which take physical parts from one body and transplant them onto another body, are still very rare. Since 1999, the U.S. has only had 27 hand-transplant procedures done. Since 2008, there have only been about seven partial or full-face transplants. Despite how rare these procedures are, they can help patients who have lost these vital organs due to illness or injury return to their daily lives.

"These hands are blessed hands to me," commented a double hand transplant patient, Lindsay Aronson Ess, 30, of Richmond, VA. Ess received the two hands in 2011 after she lost her hands to a life-threatening infection roughly five years before her surgery.

Due to the rarity of these transplants, there is no standard way of getting on a transplant list or finding a location that offers the best transplant treatment. In order to make access and treatment better, the government stated that hand and face transplants must be regulated by the same strict standards set by UNOS. Patients who need reconstructive surgery will be place on the transplant list where they will be matched with donated hands, face tissue, skin color, gender, size and age.

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