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September 18, 2006

Quality of life

There are many things you don't want to hear a doctor saying. This is one of them: "His quality of life was affected severely."

According to an article in the Guardian (via Drudge), Chinese surgeons claim to have completed the first "penis transplant" on a man who had met with an unfortunate incident.

Chinese surgeons have performed the world's first penis transplant on a man whose organ was damaged beyond repair in an accident this year. The incident left the man with a 1cm-long stump [less than half an inch] with which he was unable to urinate or have sexual intercourse. "His quality of life was affected severely," said Dr Weilie Hu, a surgeon at Guangzhou General Hospital.
The surgeons claimed the operation was a success and that within 10 days "the organ had a rich blood supply and the man was able to urinate normally."

But just as they were starting to high-five each other, reality sank in. Of course, it wasn't their reality; it was their patient's. So it wasn't their fault.
"Because of a severe psychological problem of the recipient and his wife, the transplanted penis regretfully had to be cut off," Dr Hu said. An examination of the organ showed no signs of it being rejected by the body.
I certainly can understand this statement. If you were a penis, wouldn't you regret having to be cut off? [Ouch! Stop kicking me!] Well, maybe it was just a bad translation from the Chinese. I guess they meant "regrettably."

But you know what's really troubling about the article? It's that this guy is a guy and still says this:
Andrew George, a transplant expert at Imperial College, London, said: "Doing a penis transplant should be no more complex than anything else. But it takes time for nerve sensations to kick in and it's not clear whether the patient would ever be able to have sex with it. The question is whether it's right to be doing a transplant for what may be seen as cosmetic reasons."
Let's do a pre-operative checklist. Half-inch stump? CHECK! Can't urinate? CHECK! Can't have sex? CHECK! Reluctant to go into the locker room? CHECK!

Post-operatively: Four inches or so. Can urinate. No sex. Willing to go into locker room.

I would say this is about three out of four. And if the man can urinate after the transplant, that's hardly "cosmetic." Perhaps Dr. George has forgotten why they say one is "relieving" oneself.