Surgeons in Britain have amputated the hand of the
world's first hand transplant patient after he failed to follow the
correct treatment, an Australian microsurgeon said Saturday.
Clint Hallam's transplanted hand was removed at his own request after his body rejected it, said the microsurgeon, Earl Owen.
"This was an inevitable thing to happen to Clint Hallam, because … it is now 2 1/2 years that he has kept a hand virtually without immuno-suppression" and without keeping up his physiotherapy, Owen said in an interview with British Sky television.
Surgeons removed the hand during a short operation Friday night at an unidentified London hospital, Owen said in a statement released earlier to Australian Associated Press.
Owen was among an international team that transplanted the hand onto Hallam more than two years ago in a groundbreaking 13-hour operation in France in September 1998.
Hallam, a New Zealander, infuriated his medical team by regularly losing contact with them and refusing to follow essential drug treatment.
"We know he voluntarily went without drugs for weeks at a time over the two years and failed to follow the plan he willingly agreed to before the actual transplant was performed," Owen said in the statement.
"This frustrated our attempts to treat him optimally, making it inevitable that irreversible rejection would intervene necessitating an eventual amputation in the interests of his own health."Patient May Not Have Taken Medication But speaking on Friday night's edition of the British Broadcasting Corporation's "Newsnight" current affairs program, Hallam denied he caused the rejection by failing to take his medication.
"At the time that the rejection started I was under a strict regime," he told the program, which made no mention of Friday's surgery. "The doctors were monitoring almost on a daily basis what medication I was taking."
He said that he gave up taking the medicine only several months later so that his body could recover from a bout of flu. "I'm convinced that there has come a stage with the number of rejections that I have experienced that my body or my mind has said, 'Enough is enough."'
Hallam underwent treatment at a West Australian hospital for rejection of the hand last year.
He made international headlines when surgeons grafted the hand of a 41-year-old motorcyclist onto his forearm. Hallam lost his right hand in a chain saw accident while serving a two-year prison sentence for fraud in New Zealand.
Doctors in Louisville, Ky., have performed a similar operation since then, and a team led by the French surgeon who attached Hallam's new hand has performed a double arm transplant.
In 1999, Hallam said he hoped one day to learn to play the piano and said he already was performing simple tasks with the hand such as holding a cup of coffee and swimming.