A young soldier who suffered a devastating injury in Afghanistan will undergo an experimental surgery: a penis transplant. This has never been attempted in the United States, but China (unsuccessfully) and South Africa (successfully) have paved the way.

Unlike with an arm or a leg, men have a deep psychological attachment to their genitals; thus, genitourinary injuries can have profound effects on a young man’s self-worth upon returning from war.

“Our young male patients would rather lose both legs and an arm than have a urogenital injury”- Scott E. Skiles, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

Here’s how the transplant will go:

  1. With permission from the family, the penis from a recently deceased young male will be removed.
  2. Blood vessels and nerves will attach the donor penis to the recipient.
  3. If successful, doctors believe that urinary and sexual function will be possible within a few months.

Miraculously, if a man still has his testicles in tact, he can father biological children.

The critics:

Of course, the transplant has been critiqued as it is not necessary to save a life. However, it provides a great sense of self and male identity for these young men.

What about transgender men? As of right now, the experimental surgeries are only being performed on American soldiers, but this may change.

It’s not cheap either. The estimated cost is $200,000 to $400,000 just for the operation, which will take about 12 hours under a microscope. The men will also have to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of their lives, which increases their risk of cancer and infection.

For more:

New York Times article

The world’s first successful penis transplant in South Africa

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