Worlds first penis transplant patient, 21, ‘brought back to life’ with op

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A man who was “brought back to life” by a penis transplant was able to get an erection and even ejaculate after the groundbreaking procedure.

The man lost his penis after a botched circumcision. But thanks to a pioneering operation by famed urologist Andre van der Merwe he regained almost all of the organ’s normal function.

While the 21-year old South African patient’s identity has been kept confidential, Dr van der Merwe has achieved enormous fame as a result of the procedure – becoming known popularly as “Dr Dick”.

He told the South African Sunday Times that he’d even had a request from someone who wanted to donate their penis.

De van der Merwe said: "He wants to be genderless and donate his penis to somebody,” he explained. “So I will ask my colleagues in the US who want to copy the surgery to do the operation on one of their own patients and I will be a consultant."

The original penis transplant, which took place in Dec 11, 2014, involved a penis taken from a dead donor. Dr van der Merwe pointed out that in that case there was no way to be sure about the donor's sexual history.

He added that a skin graft taken from the inside of the patient's leg had been used along with some tattooing to ensure that the new penis was the same colour as the recipient patient's skin.

Responding to claims that penis transplants are a frivolous use of surgeons’ time, he replied: “This is a very serious situation. For a young man of 18 or 19 years the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic.

"He doesn’t necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men.”

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Dr van der Merwe’s patient had already been sexually active when he had the circumcision at the age of 18.

The procedure is a common ritual in many parts of South Africa to mark the transition to manhood but in his case a mistake left him with less than an inch of his penis.

The male circumcision rate is believed to be almost 50% in South Africa.

Experts say as many as 250 South African men lose all or part of their penis due to badly-performed circumcisions and Dr van der Merwe says he intends to continue performing penis transplants even though some critics have said they aren’t necessary.

“There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world, as many young men lose their penises every year due to complications from ritual circumcision,” he said.

Speaking to the BBC, he added: "You may say it doesn't save their life, but many of these young men when they have penile amputations are ostracised, stigmatised and take their own life.

"If you don't have a penis you are essentially dead, if you give a penis back you can bring them back to life.”

The patient is very happy and he’s doing well after the operation according to Dr van der Merwe.

He added that after the operation, the patient could now urinate standing up, get an erection and even reach a sexual climax – all of which he had lost due to the clumsy circumcision attempt.

Dr Nicola Barsdorf, head of health research ethics at Stellenbosch University’s faculty of medicine and health sciences, said that the penis transplants would in time become more commonplace: “Once the surgery is made broadly available, it will be offered in state facilities and be accessible to vulnerable groups that are often unable to afford state-of-the-art health care.”

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