UCL News


London surgeon set to carry out first full face transplant

23 December 2005

British doctors are set to carry out the world's first full face transplant within months after being granted approval to choose a patient.

Professor Peter Butler (UCL Surgery), of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, and his team will now begin selecting a patient who is suitable to have a whole face transplant after an ethics committee gave approval.

It comes two weeks after the Standard revealed a French team of sugeons had carried out the first partial face transplant, replacing the nose, mouth and chin of 38-year-old Isabelle Dinoir, who had been attacked by her dog.

But unlike that procedure, Professor Butler is aiming to carry out a complete face transplant.

He has been working with burns patients, donor groups and transplant co-ordinators on ethical concerns over whether the operation would be acceptable. His research has shown 60 per cent of the general public now think the operation should go ahead.

The professor told the Standard: "We have been working towards this and have put in an enormous effort into getting it right. It doesn't matter who does it first."

For the last four years he has carried out research on identity, psychological and tissue rejection issues in preparation and insists the French operation has not altered his timetable.

His patient is likely to have extensive burns and will have already gone through several skin graft operations.

The decision by the ethics committee at the Royal Free to allow the selection process to proceed is likely to be controversial because the Royal College of Surgeons still has concerns over the operation.

Once Prof Butler has selected a patient he will need to apply to the hospital ethics committee again for approval to carry out the operation….

Rebecca Smith, 'The Evening Standard', 15 December 2005