Are Face Transplants Still Research, or Regular Care?
Is replacing a severely disfigured person's face with one from a dead donor ready to be called regular care, something insurers should cover? Mayo Clinic has raised that question by doing the first U.S. face transplant that's not part of research. Faces, hands, wombs and even a penis have been transplanted in recent years. Unlike liver or heart transplants, these novel procedures are not life-saving but life-enhancing. Who pays for care that can cost $700,000 or more is a growing concern. Ethics and liability issues also may arise when they're done without the oversight of an institutional review board, a hospital panel that ensures research participants' rights are protected. The group that runs the nation's organ transplant system, the United Network for Organ Sharing, plans a conference to help guide policy.
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