Aug 20, 2019 | Updated: 11:45 AM EDT

First Successful Penis Transplant Raises Questions around South African Circumcision Ceremonies

Mar 14, 2015 06:18 PM EDT

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While a South African patient's identity is being protected for ethical reasons, according to Tygerberg Hospital, news of his successful procedure and sexual history are making headlines nonetheless. Fully recovered from a nine-hour operation that occurred on Dec. 11, 2014, the young man whose name is not being disclosed at this time, marks a great achievement in that doctors were the first to successfully complete a penile transplant operation in his case.

The 21-year-old South African male is healthy and has reportedly made a record-breaking recovery that surgeons and researchers did not expect until December of 2016. According to a press release issued by Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, where surgeons were recruited for the rare case, the patient's recovery includes "restoration of all the patient's urinary and reproductive functions."

"It's a massive breakthrough. We've proved that it can be done" head of the division of plastic reconstructive surgery at Stellenbosch University, Professor Frank Graewe says. "We can give someone an organ that is just as good as the one that he had."

The now 21-year-old sought medical council nearly three years after botched medical procedure left him without a penis. During a coming-of-age ceremony, a traditional circumcision turned awry when the patient's penis was amputated after complications arose. These initiation practices and traditional coming-of-age ceremonies are not entirely uncommon in African nations, however, have come under scrutiny in large part because of the risk of complications. Now surgeons are hopeful that they can correct these botched procedures.

In celebrating the success of the procedure, the South African doctors are also publicly recognized the donor, whose generous donation saved multiple lives and in particular changed the life of the unnamed patients and medical history forever.

"The heroes in all of this for me are the donor, and his family. They saved the lives of many people because they donated the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, corneas, and then the penis."

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