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An old superstition says that a man who loses both hands is compensated by being given the gift of foresight. From everything I've seen, there is certainly some truth to this belief....

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Hand Transplant Options

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Recent technological advances in human limb replacements have raised an interesting issue of which one makes a better substitute hand - Human or Bionic.

Since the first human hand transplant done on Clint Hallam, several more doner hands have been successfully attatched to needy limbs. Professor Earl Owen's work pioneering this was far better and more complete than many (including myself) initially believed possible. Mr. Hallam has apparently been able, for short periods at least, to stop taking his anti-rejection medication entirely. All this even with Mr. Hallam's unique "self-determination" regarding his treatment. (Update: Clint Hallam eventually had to have his transplanted hand removed due to his refusal to take the prescribed anti-rejection medications.)

Then we have artificial replacements. Bionic hands aren't "6 million dollar man" technology - they're not faster, stronger, or better. New designs in the Prodigit Prosthetic Digit System, however, have finally made bionic hands practical. David Gow's determined work has accomplished 6 prototypes and a successful trial on five children.

Both of these options can now be considered feasible. Human hand transplants use a real hand which must be taken from a donor, while the bionic one is entirely artificial. Ethics, cost, risks, functionality, and aesthetic appearance are the major factors for individual evaluation.

Personally, I would have too great a difficulty in coming to terms with the morbid necessity of receiving the hand from a dead body. Likewise, an artificial limb would always be a painful reminder of what I had lost, but pretended to still possess. I'd have to follow in my father's footsteps, and somehow adapt to functioning normally with whatever part of my arms still remained.

Article written: November 29, 2000

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