A prominent health news story over the last few days has been the reporting on the first penis transplant in the USA. The story may make many readers wince, but as the doctors who performed the operation have pointed out, the development of a workable procedure for penis transplants could be of tremendous importance to thousands of cancer sufferers, former soldiers, and others worldwide. After a failed attempt in China a decade ago, and a single successful operation in South Africa in 2014, the doctors have said that they are ‘cautiously optimistic’ that the operation has been a success – the recipient, 64 year-old cancer patient Thomas Manning, is said to be feeling well, having felt little pain. It is hoped that he will be able to urinate within weeks and to perform sexually within months. His doctors hope that the operation will be a significant step in developing a procedure that may help thousands of others. This story follows the news last month that an Italian doctor is hoping to soon be able to perform the world’s first human head transplant.
Secondly, you may have read news reports over the last few days warning men to become fathers before they turn 40, because fathers over 40 are at a significantly increased risk of having children with serious illnesses. As the NHS’s Behind the Headlines feature explains, though, ‘this is an opinion piece’ and we shouldn’t take these stories as evidence that there is a ‘male biological clock’ or that middle-age fathers are putting their children at risk. The research that formed the basis of this story was focused on a review of scientific evidence that changes that occur in a person’s gene activity as they age may be passed on to their children, and didn’t make any claims about the overall appropriateness of men over 40 having children. As the NHS’s reportage concludes, what men hoping to conceive should focus on is avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol, and eating a healthy diet. You can also read the original research yourself.
Finally, an update on the junior doctors dispute: last week the contract negotiations between the government and the British Medical Association (on behalf of the junior doctors) were extended until tomorrow, Wednesday 18th May 2016. The talks are being treated as a last chance for the two sides to come to an agreement before the government ‘imposes’ the contract on new graduating doctors at the end of this month. While the talks are ongoing, the BMA is suspending plans for further strikes, and the government is suspending its own plans to impose the contract. We will find out this week whether either the imposition or the strikes (or both) will go ahead as planned.
Let us know, as always, what you think of these stories in the comments below. Do you think older people should avoid having children? What are your hopes for the junior doctors’ contract renegotiations? And what do you make of the story of a (hopefully) successful penis transplant?