Nearly 1,400 soldiers suffered genital injuries while on duty in Afghanistan and Iraq
A US war veteran will go under the knife for 12 hours in a bid to become the first American to ever receive a penis transplant as surgeons work to knit together nerve and blood vessels to restore urinary and, they hope, sexual function.
Between 2001 and 2013 during the ongoing war on terror, almost 1,400 US soldiers deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan suffered some kind of genital injury. Now surgeons at the prestigious medical school at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore will perform a transplant from a dead donor to the mutilated veteran.
The procedure involves only the transplanting of the penis and not the testes, so if the veteran father’s a child in the future, he will be the biological father.
The first, and thus far only successful, penis transplant took place in South Africa in 2014, with the recipient reported to have impregnated his girlfriend after recovering from the surgery. Another transplant was attempted in China in 200, but the patient’s body rejected the donor penis.
Johns Hopkins surgeons have received permission to carry out as many as 60 penis transplants in an effort to explore the efficacy of the experimental surgery.
Emotional and physical scars
Damage to the genitals, known as genitourinary injury, is a common occurrence during combat, but which can have a lasting psychological impact.
“These genitourinary injuries are not things we hear about or read about very often,” Dr WP Andrew Lee, chairman of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins, told the New York Times. “I think one would agree it is as devastating as anything that our wounded warriors suffer, for a young man to come home in his early 20s with the pelvic area completely destroyed.”
Jeffrey Kahn, a leading bio-ethicist at the medical school in Baltimore, said that the donation of genital organs will likely become a common discussion when communicating to donor families after the loss of a loved on.
“Once this becomes public and there’s some sense that this is successful and a good therapy, there will be all sorts of questions about whether you will do it for gender reassignment,” Kahn said.
“What do you say to the donor? A 23-year-old wounded in the line of duty has a very different sound than somebody who is seeking gender reassignment.”