Prof Peter Butler, a director of surgery and trauma at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London, and one of the world’s most accomplished plastic surgeons, is examining candidates for the UK’s first full face transplant, according to the Independent.
Butler and his team have spent several weeks examining people with combined face and hand injuries, and now five suitable candidates for the difficult procedure have been chosen from a list of 50 interested patients. Now, it is just a matter of waiting for a donor.
"Every patient going through the process has unique matching requirements so if a patient with a face and hand requirement matched the donor, then that patient would be done," said Prof Butler.
The procedure, a combined face and hand operation, has only been performed once before, in Amiens, France, in 2005. Isabelle Dinoire was given a transplant after a dog mauled her. Three years ago, she admitted she remained uncertain as to whose face she looked at in the mirror every day after undergoing the procedure. She has said: "It's not hers, it's not mine, it's somebody else's."
Prof Butler, who is head of the UK Facial Transplantation Research Team, has followed Dinoire’s case and says lessons have been learned. His patients, who include burn victims, victims of explosions and people with serious infections, are being subjected to rigorous psychological tests.
The Irish-born Butler seemed destined for a career in the medical field. His mother was a pharmacist and his father went on to lead the school of Dentistry at Trinity College. He graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons and Physicians of Ireland, worked as a plastic surgeon in Dublin and the US, and served a research fellowship in plastic surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. In London, he achieved the plastic surgery fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1998.
Butler has spent his entire career looking for ways to help people with disfigurements. Prof Butler's charity, Facetrust, has raised the money to pay for the transplant. Butler has also invested some of his own savings in the project.
He said in an interview: "Some of the people we see have a life which they term as an existence. They spend their days inside, go to the local corner store in the evening, don't go to the supermarket because they don't want to be seen, they wear a hood or a veil, they take their weekly provision and go home. They don't answer the door even to the postman. That isn't a life. It really isn't."