So the United States has performed its first full facial transplant:

Dallas Weins and his family have documented his journey from injury to face transplant on his website, dallaswiens.com, including photos that show Dallas prior to the accident, and his recovery from the injury, through skin grafts and ultimately, the face transplant.

No photos have been released of Weins post surgery, but as he recovers it is likely that he will be seen in photos and interviews. He won’t look like he used to, and he won’t look like his donor, but he will be a unique combination of the two. While the surgery won’t restore his vision, his goals are far more simple: smiling and feeling kisses from his young daughter.

At least a few people have responded that it’s a waste of resources. I tend to disagree. I mean, right now it’s ridiculously expensive because it’s groundbreaking stuff, but this is how a lot of things start. And it’s not like he’s doing it to go from okay to great looking. He’s going from terrible looking to less terrible looking. It’s a big difference that I doubt the normal looking among us can really appreciate.

It does bring to light the question of who is footing the bill. I’ve heard a couple of different stories. The local paper cited the PPACA (also known as Obamacare):

Wiens had no health insurance when he was injured. Medicaid paid for several surgeries after the accident until his disability payments put him over Medicaid’s income limit.

But because of the reform law’s dependent coverage requirement — which says dependent children are eligible for coverage under a parent’s employer-sponsored plan until they reach the age of 26 — the 25-year-old Wiens was able to obtain health insurance under his father’s plan.

But a couple of sources have said something different:

The surgery is being paid for by a $3.4 million Defense Department grant intended to advance research into the procedure for use on wounded military members, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Maybe it’s a combination of the two.


Category: Newsroom

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9 Responses to No-Face

  1. Peter says:

    It really doesn’t matter than the costs of a face transplant may be extremely high. As there is very little demand for face transplants these costs are never going to be more than a minute fraction of one percent of national healthcare spending.

  2. trumwill says:

    If the cost ever goes down, I could see it being used in less extreme cases. Quite a few burn victims and such out there with significantly deformed faces. But I agree that it will never be a significant expenditure in a system that spends over two trillion dollars a year in health care.

  3. Peter says:

    I would imagine that even if there is much higher demand for face transplants, it will be very hard finding enough donors.

  4. Brandon Berg says:

    At least a few people have responded that it’s a waste of resources. I tend to disagree. I mean, right now it’s ridiculously expensive because it’s groundbreaking stuff, but this is how a lot of things start. And it’s not like he’s doing it to go from okay to great looking. He’s going from terrible looking to less terrible looking. It’s a big difference that I doubt the normal looking among us can really appreciate.

    People seem to want to dismiss as frivolous any medical technology that doesn’t actually save lives. Consider, for example, the derisive references to “penis pills” that inevitably come up in any discussion of pharmaceutical innovation. I doubt that those people would still be laughing if they were the ones whose sex lives would otherwise be effectively over.

  5. trumwill says:

    Especially when it’s something that they don’t suffer from and as far as they know nobody they know suffers from it. There’s a good chance many of them know and like someone on Viagra, but most people on Viagra aren’t going to advertise it.

    Megan McArdle has been arguing for quite some time that people who dismiss restless leg syndrome obviously don’t know anyone that actually suffers from it.

  6. Peter says:

    Those who sell Viagra certainly aren’t shy about advertising it, if my e-mail spam is any indication.

  7. trumwill says:

    Funny. I didn’t get my customary email for Peter’s comment. I suspect because it contained the third and fourth word of his comment, so the filter caught it.

  8. Maria says:

    Be nice if our government would stopp sending our military personnel off on pointless maneuvers into Third World Muslim countries–then we wouldn’t have a need for face transplants.

  9. trumwill says:

    We’d still have a need. The man in question lost his face in an electrical fire. But the DoD would probably be less likely to pay for it.

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