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'Longing for Human Touch'

June 19, 2000|From Washington Post

Doctors at Jewish Hospital said 213 would-be recipients contacted the hospital to inquire about a hand transplant between July 1997 and December 1999.

"One of the things that surprised me, . . . was the longing for human touch," said Martin M. Klapheke, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Louisville School of Medicine who assesses a candidate's ability to withstand the stress of the procedure and its aftermath.

"Not only does the person . . . have to physically integrate the organ, they have to psychologically assimilate it," he said.

Matt Scott, the first American to receive a successful hand transplant, told Klapheke he felt a need to "right the wrong" he believed he had done by being careless with fireworks years earlier.

The donor in Scott's transplant was a man who had died after a suicide attempt. "One can imagine that would further strain a person's ability to integrate this hand," Klapheke said. "But Matt . . . said, 'This is my hand. . . . I'm responsible for what this hand does now.' "

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