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Ethics of Face Transplants to be Examined at Duquesne Center for Healthcare Ethics

Perhaps no transplant is as controversial as a face transplant, a procedure tied so closely to personal identity.

Discussion of Ethics Consultation in Medical Innovation: Face Transplants will be presented by Duquesne University's Center for Healthcare Ethics as part of the David F. Kelly Bioethics Lectures, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, in the Power Center Ballroom on the Duquesne campus.

Keynote speaker Dr. George Agich has worked in clinical ethics and ethics consultation since the late 1970s. A retired philosophy professor at Bowling Green State University, he has published on a wide range of topics and developed one of the earliest and most extensive ethics education programs for medical students and residents.

"Face transplants represent an astounding technological breakthrough in reconstructive surgery," explained Dr. Gerard Magill, the Vernon F. Gallagher Chair and professor in Duquesne's Center for Healthcare Ethics. "This remarkable medical innovation involves an abundance of legal and ethical issues. Most significantly, facilitating the decision-making and consent of the patient is crucially important. The complex procedures with multiple clinicians over extensive hours can involve reconstruction on facial tissue from the scalp to the neck, on the nose and lips, on the upper and lower jaw, on the tongue and teeth, with all the nerve connections involved."

Not surprisingly, risks are significant due to the complex surgery. "Immune rejection can be problematic, and recovery takes a great deal of time," Magill added. "The ethicist, working with the clinical team, can play an important role in the process to help the patient and family understand and internalize what is involved. This involves considerable time, patience and expertise to communicate clearly what is at stake so that there is reliable comprehension and sound consent."

Agich is a Duquesne University alumnus and 1999 inductee into the University's prestigious Century Club.

The David F. Kelly Bioethics Lectures invites nationally and internationally prominent scholars to lecture at Duquesne each fall and spring semester on current and emerging topics in bioethics. The purpose of the series is to provide ethics leadership on the crucial issues in health care today.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Glory Smith at 412.396.4504.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.