Media reports this week have followed up on the progress of the patient involved in the UK’s first ever hand transplant, which took place on 7th December 2012 at Leeds General Infirmary.
Mark Cahill from Halifax, West Yorkshire, had been left without mobility in his right hand for five years, after suffering from severe gout. When Mr Cahill heard that Leeds Teaching Hospitals were looking for candidates for hand transplant surgery in 2011, he put himself forward for the procedure. The surgery was performed by Professor Simon Kay and took 8 hours to complete. Mr Cahill’s own hand was amputated and then the donor’s hand was attached using revolutionary micro-surgery techniques. The bones of the donor hand and Mr Cahill’s arm were connected followed by the tendons, nerves, arteries and veins to restore blood flow. The skin was then stitched and the wound closed.
Just over a year on, Mr Cahill has achieved astonishing results. He is now able to pick things up, tie his shoelaces and most importantly to him – hold his grandson’s hand. For Mr Cahill, the future has changed and he is no longer suffers from a debilitating disability. This astonishing improvement can be credited to the innovation in medical and surgical techniques by Professor Kay.
Inspiring stories like this highlight how many doctors are trying to innovate responsibly and effectively. The Government’s proposed Medical Innovation Bill is currently in consultation process with the medical profession, the law-makers and the general public. The aim is to encourage medical professionals to innovate responsibly without the threat of negligence claims.
Many of the things we take for granted these days, such as penicillin and organ transplants are the direct results of medical innovation, so should the law-makers promote an environment where such ground-breaking techniques are developed, who will police the medical professionals or should we encourage cautious innovation? These are all questions that the Government want the consultation process to cover.