The Devastating Allure of Medical Miracles

February 18, 2019

(Wired) – Consent in hand transplants is devilishly slippery: Can a person who has lost a hand properly weigh the allure of soon regaining such a vital part of themself against the seemingly distant probabilities of suffering treatment’s possible harms? Levin says this is best addressed by confronting the patient with the grimmest picture possible of the risks and by appointing them an independent patient advocate. James Benedict, a bioethicist at Duquesne University who has studied consent and the US hand transplant community for more than seven years, has a different concern. At this point, he says, “I’m not even sure it’s possible to give informed consent, because the outcome data is so sparse. How can you give consent about accepting risks if you don’t even know what they are?”

Recommended Reading