London panel OKs full-face transplant

LONDON (AP) -- An ethics panel Wednesday approved a London hospital's plan to carry out what could be the world's first full-face transplant, but no candidates for the surgery have yet been selected, a spokesman said.
The Special Ethics Committee of the Royal Free Hospital approved a proposal for a series of four transplant operations, said Neil Huband, spokesman for The Face Trust.
"What happens next is that we continue going through the details of patients and looking to potential patients and continue research," Huband said.
He said a list of candidates for the operations could be completed within six months or a year.
French surgeons carried out the first partial face transplant last year. The Cleveland Clinic in the United States is also working on plans for full-face transplants.
Since receiving permission last year to identify potential patients, the transplant team headed by Dr. Peter Butler has identified 34 possible candidates, but has not yet begun formally evaluating their suitability for surgery, the trust said.
The Royal College of Surgeons said it "still has grave concerns about face transplantation" and pleaded for caution, and said it planned to propose standards for any institution to meet before attempting a full-face transplant. It urged the trust, which controls the Royal Free Hospital, "not to allow this surgery to proceed until that review has taken place."
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