ObamaCare ought to include hand and face transplants

By on March 27, 2013

In analyzing why face and hand transplants should be covered under ObamaCare, one must begin by understanding the function of Affordable Care Act. The act represents the largest effort to introduce a system that allows everyone to be able to afford healthcare. People that had been marginalized by the healthcare system can now have necessary care and checkups.

Emily Fennell shows off hand transplant. www.cbsnews.com

Emily Fennell shows off hand transplant. www.cbsnews.com

If one compares the goals of face and hand transplants to those of ObamaCare, one can see that they are largely consistent. A face or hand transplant has a transformative effect for those who get them. The days of not being able to use both hands to achieve tasks are often behind the person. In addition, those who receive face transplants are finally able to live without the weight of severe disfigurement. This weight can be crippling for many. Take, for instance, the face transplant story of Pascal Coler. His struggles with disfiguring tumors on his face caused him to live an ostracized life like that of Quasimodo. However, after having a face transplant, his appearance brought him closer to societal norms (Pence, Medical Ethics).

In this way, these surgeries bring marginalized individuals by society back into its fold just as the Affordable Care Act allows many to afford medical care and reap the benefits of good health.
The process of hand and face surgeries is routine compared to the maintenance after the surgery. One must take a concoction of steroids and antibiotics in order to suppress the body’s natural immune response to the foreign tissue. The risks of this kind of long-term exposure must be understood by the patient as they predispose one to cancer. Finally, behaviors, such as smoking, that prevent the healing process are to be avoided. One may criticize this view by noting that this money would be used for cosmetic surgery rather than those that are actually necessary. As the
ObamaCare hopes to reduce the costs of medical expenses, how would we allow for such expenditures?

Although the costs of the surgeries and post operation medicine aren’t cheap, they offer much bang for their buck. How does one put a price on ameliorating a disfigurement? Rather than only highlighting the absolute costs of the operation, one should remember that the operation’s benefits are priceless.

The inclusion of these kinds of surgeries in the Affordable Care Act does not mean that they will be wantonly conducted. Rather, a careful protocol that emphasizes doing no harm will guide the process of qualifying for the surgery. First, one must ensure that each patient understands the risks of the operation and the use of immune system suppressing medicines. Second, the individual will have to be prepared for possible shifts in personality or identity. And lastly, individuals seeking this operation for cosmetic reasons will be screened out.

Majaliwa Mzombwe
Staff Writer
maja@uab.edu

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