Saturday, November 17, 2018

ABC 20-20 presents a story of a face transplant after a suicide attempt



ABC 20-20 Friday night presented a disturbing storyFace Transplant” about two young men with mental illness who each attempted (and in one case succeeded) in suicide.

The first young man started out life well, in California.   But as a young adult mental illness sunk in (possibly exacerbated by drugs or alcohol) and he attempted suicide with a shotgun pointed upward under his chin.  It shot off his face but missed his brain.  The police who reported in the story said that this kind of suicide attempt often fails for that reason. The family had only that one weapon at home, and it was apparently intended for legitimate hunting.

About a year later, another young man died of a drug or opioid overdose, after mental illness.  This young man had been a promising tournament chess player with the USCF (although I don’t recall seeing discussion of him in Chess Life). Again, in his twenties he had slipped into mental illness in New York.

The young man had signed up for organ donor registry, and was negative for all diseases (like HIV).  A tissue match was discovered.


The episode described the career of the surgeon from Hopkins in Baltimore;  he had been a dental surgeon before.  He got the right position by luck. 

The face transplant took 25 hours and the recipient has to take anti-rejection medication, which could expose him to cancers and infections and shorten his life span.

The surgeon had performed another face transplant on a firefighter who had lost his face rescuing someone from a fire – sacrifice.

The parents of the young men meet at the end of the episode.

The 1997 film “Face-Off” was mentioned, and I’ll cover that on the Movies blog later.

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