The dangers of a traditional circumcision
iAfrica, Mar. 16, 2015
Also available on the iAfrica website
Credit: Flickr James Burton
Following the successful transplant of a penis in South Africa after a botched circumcision, focus has now shone on the dangers of a traditional circumcision.
African teenagers from some ethnic groups spend about a month in secluded bush or mountain regions as part of their initiation to manhood.
The experience includes circumcision as well as lessons on masculine courage and discipline.
A commission last year found 486 boys had died at the winter initiation schools between 2008 and 2013, with a major cause being complications such as infection after circumcision.
“For a young man of 18 or 19 years, the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic,” said Van der Merwe.
“He doesn’t necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men.”
Van der Merwe described the anonymous donor and his family as “the heroes” of the story.
“They saved the lives of many people because they donated the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, corneas and then the penis,” he said.
The South African team included three senior doctors, transplant coordinators, anaesthetists, theatre nurses, a psychologist and an ethicist.
Surgeons from Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital had searched extensively for a suitable donor as part of a pilot study to develop penis transplants in Africa.
Some techniques were developed from the first facial transplant in France in 2005.
They now plan to perform nine more similar operations.
South Africa has long been a pioneer of transplant surgery.
In 1967, Chris Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.
The Chinese man who rejected his new penis in 2006 received his transplant after parents of a brain-dead man agreed to donate their son’s organ.