Penis transplant for trans men now possible?
An experimental medical surgery in the US may soon give hope to trans men who want to make the medical transition via a sex reassignment surgery: a penis transplant that would be functional.
A New York Times article reported that within a few months to a year, surgeons from John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore will perform a penis transplant operation on a soldier.
If this proves successful, the medical operation may first be limited to men injured in combat until medical questions on how a functional penis transplant will be implemented during gender reassignment surgery can be resolved.
Experimental penis transplant for soldiers
Writing for the the NY Times, Denise Grady reported that the medical operation for penis transplant will be done with the organ coming from a deceased donor.
Surgeons expect that after this operation, the organ will work in a matter of months with its urinary function, sensation, and even the the ability to have sex working.
The medical operation is expected to be a boon to 1,367 men in military service who suffered wounds to the genitals in Iraq or Afghanistan from 2001 to 2013. Some of these lost all or part of their penises or testicles (dubbed as genitourinary injuries).
Only two other penis transplants have been reported in medical journals: one in China in 2006 that failed and another one in South Africa last year that succeeded.
As the surgery is considered experimental, John Hopkins has given the doctors permission to perform 60 transplants, which will be monitored to see if this operation will be made into a standard treatment.
The risks involved are the same as those from any major transplant operation: bleeding, infection, and the possibility that the medicine needed to prevent transplant rejection will increase the odds of cancer.
Likewise, only the penis will be transplanted and not the testes, where sperm is produced.
No penis transplant for trans for now
Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, the chairman of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins, said that for now, the operation is being offered to men injured in combat and it is not available to transgender people.
However, this may change in the future.
“Once this becomes public and there’s some sense that this is successful and a good therapy, there will be all sorts of questions about whether you will do it for gender reassignment,” Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins, said.
“What do you say to the donor? A 23-year-old wounded in the line of duty has a very different sound than somebody who is seeking gender reassignment,” Dr. Kahn said.
Likewise, for a transplant to be possible, certain nerves and blood vessels– as well as the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body– need to be intact in the recipient.
Currently, doctors can create a penis from tissue taken from other parts of a patient’s own body, an operation that’s being done more and more on transgender men. However, with this penis transplant operation, erections are not possible without an implant.