The following letter is in response to the article on Transplant of Hand….
Attention Editor Sun Letters:
This letter addresses some of the issues regarding Pamela Fayerman’s
article on “Transplant of hand expected within a year…”
Over the last decade there has been an increasing amount of attention drawn
to research on limb replacement and organ regeneration. Whilst the general
direction of such research is rewarding for the surgeon’s who perform it,
more often than not, the recipients perception or opinion is overlooked.
I have been an above knee amputee for over twenty years. In the last two
decades I have often fantasised about how my life would have been had my
leg magically grown back. Evidently, for some amputees this fantasy might
come true in the next year or so.
I have no doubt there will be many candidates volunteering their bodies for
limb transplant surgery. I would even consider it myself if they ever get
around to replacing legs. Determining which candidates will be physically
suitable or not will be left up to the surgeons. However, will the surgeons
take into consideration psychological factors involved in a limb with
little or no function?
Let us look at the surgery we have available today – the article mentions
that numerous re-attachment surgeries are performed here in Vancouver every
year. However, no one brought up the success rate or the amount of function
the re-attached body part has. What is the use of a limb that serves no
purpose and is often painful? Is it better to have a non-functioning limb
removed or leave a non-functioning limb in place?
>From my experience in helping people make the decision to have limb
amputated or not, I have found surgeons will spend inordinate amounts of
time “experimenting” at the patients expense. It is not uncommon for a
person who received a bone crushing injury to go through 10 or even 20
years of re-constructive surgeries only to have that body part amputated.
More often that not it is the patient who demands the damaged body part be
Removal of the damaged limb often increases overall bodily function and
reduces the level of chronic pain – which in turn increases the quality of
life of the person. The level of prosthetic technology today, whilst far
from perfect is often functionally superior to a limb that is for all
intents and purposes “dead”.
All sane amputees want their limbs back – however surgeons should not
capitolise on this desire. If at the end of twenty years of surgery the
patient has found success, I will applaud the surgeons for what they are
about to do, until that time I reserve my judgment on their
Too many surgeons often perform surgery because they can do it, but in my
experience only a selected few ask “should they be doing it?”
Ian Gregson moderates the Amputee Internet mailing list at St. Johns
University in New York and the Amputee WEB Site based in Vancouver
(http://www.harbour.com/commorgs/amputee). He is also Chair of the Greater
Vancouver Amputee Support Group and Amputee Coalition of Canada.
Ian Gregson (mailto:[email protected])
Amputee WEB Site <> AMPUTATION Online Magazine
Moderator Amputee & D-Sport Listservs