21 April 2006

Bears in the news

BerlinBear avatarBeing a bear myself, I always take note when one of my kind pops up in the news. In the past week, a black bear from China keeps getting a mention. That's because said black bear was the reason why the first face transplant ever performed in China had to be undertaken. It was only the second face transplant in the world, the first having been performed in France last year.

The recipient of the new face, or more precisely a new cheek, upper lip and nose - all from the one donor, was Li Guoxing, a 30 year-old hunter and farmer. He required the surgery after being attacked by a black bear some two years ago. Chinese media report that he is doing well, though it will be two months before doctors can be certain that his body has not rejected the new face.

While it's undoubtedly great for Mr. Li to have had his mauled face repaired, spare a thought for the bear. Given that Mr. Li was a hunter, for all we know, the mauling may have been self-defence, a matter of life or death for the bear. Perhaps he thought to himself "if I just rip half this guy's face off, but let him live, he at least won't be able to use his gun properly" or something to that effect. Or maybe it was revenge. Perhaps Mr. Li killed the poor bear's brother, or mother, or partner. Who knows? Just thought I'd throw the potential other side of the story out there, because the media reports have been neglecting it.

On a more serious note, New Scientist has a more detailed report on the face transplant operation, including consideration of ethical issues and whatnot. It's worth a read, though be warned, it contains pretty graphic images of Mr Li's new face and his old one, or rather lack of one. Not for the faint hearted.

; ;