Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD are planning to attempt the first US penis transplant. The surgery will be performed on a soldier who was wounded in Afghanistan.
The procedure will use a donor organ with a similar skin tone to the recipient. While doctors are hopeful that they can attach blood vessels, nerves, and urinary vessels to make the penis functional for both urination and sex, they cannot transplant testicles. Even if the procedure is successful, the soldier will not be able to father children. (For more on the issue of soldiers rendered infertile due to injuries, read this.)
There has been one successful penis transplant prior to this, performed in Africa in 2014. If the procedure becomes reliable it has tremendous implications for veterans. IED attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan have left many service members with irreparable harm to their lower bodies, including loss of genitals. The physical and psychological toll of such injuries is staggering.
In addition to being a restorative procedure, I can’t help but think that penis transplantation might also have wonderful implications for the transgender community. I’m not well versed enough in medicine to know if a penis could be successfully transplanted on a trans man but if it could, this could revolutionize gender confirmation surgeries for trans men.
Of course, there could be issues with the question of donation — would it be ethical for potential donors to specify how they want their genitals used after they pass away? And would it be possible for trans women who choose to have their penises surgically removed as part of their transition be able to donate the organs to trans men looking to have one transplanted?
Regardless of how penis transplantation evolves as a medical field, we can all agree in wishing the best for the soldier undergoing the procedure in Baltimore.