London Hospital Plans Four Partial Face Transplants

A British surgeon plans to offer partial face transplant surgery to four patients — less than a year after French surgeons pioneered the technique, a London hospital said Sunday.

The ethics committee of London's Royal Free Hospital will make a decision Wednesday on a request from plastic surgeon Peter Butler to carry out the operations at the hospital, spokesman Neil Hubands said.

Hubands said Butler has already been granted approval by the committee to carry out preparatory work with patients, including psychological assessments — but has yet to identify who will receive the treatment and when it will go ahead.

"There is no possibility of a face transplant in this country for some considerable time. There is an awful lot of work to be done still, there are no patients lined up to be operated on," Hubands said.

He said the process of selecting patients could take up to a year.

Simon Weston, a veteran of the 1982 war with Argentina over the Falklands Islands who was disfigured by facial burns, will attend the meeting to support calls for the operations to go ahead.

"We have done everything we can to prepare for this surgery, and we would like to go ahead — at some point the jump has to be made and people have to say yes. The time is right for this surgery," Butler was quoted as saying by Britain's The Observer newspaper.

Britain's Department of Health said on Sunday that the decision whether to go ahead with the surgery would be taken by the individual hospital.

French mother of two Isabelle Dinoire became the world's first partial face transplant patient in Amiens, northern France, last November.

During 15 hours of surgery, a team of doctors replaced a gaping hole from a dog mauling with a partial face that included a new nose, mouth and chin.