News you may have missed...
November 1998

Italy doctor seeks world's first penis transplant

By Philip Pullella ROME, Nov 3 (Reuters) - A leading Italian plastic surgeon who has asked health officials for permission to carry out the world's first penis transplant said on Tuesday that he already had three patients ready to undergo the operation. "This is not like the Bobbit case, where his penis was re-implanted," Professor Nicolo Scuderi said referring to the famous case of John Wayne Bobbit, whose penis was re-attached in 1993 after his wife had cut it off. "This would be the first time a penis is transplanted from one body to another, whether it be from a living body or a corpse," he told Reuters in an interview in his office at Rome's Umberto I hospital, Italy's largest. "Technically this would not be a very complicated operation...a transplant is easier than re-attachment," he said.

But Scuderi said it was not clear if a person who received a transplanted penis would be able to have an erection. Scuderi made headlines on Tuesday when a Rome newspaper first reported his recent request to the health ministry. He said he was spurred to make the request after French doctors performed their own surgical first when they transplanted an arm and a hand to an amputee. Three people have told Scuderi they would be willing to undergo the operation. Two are women who have received legal permission to undergo sex change operations and would receive transplanted penises. He said the third is a man who had had his penis amputated in a sex change operation to become a woman but has since "realised it was a mistake" and wants to return to being a man, Scuderi said.

Scuderi's surgical team already carries out penis reconstruction surgery for sex change operations and amputee cases, including those where penises have to be cut off because of cancer. This is usually done by using forearm muscles. "We are ready. We are just waiting for the OK," he said. The penis transplant operations could take place by twinning sex-change patients. A man who wanted to become a woman could donate his penis to a woman who wanted to become a man. He said penises could also be donated by clinically dead patients on life-support equipment, which is a main source of other transplant organs such as hearts, lungs and livers. "We can restore vascularity, we can restore sensitivity to the organ but we don't know how much sensitivity and function will be regained," he said.

Scuderi said whether a patient who received a transplanted organ could have an erection was still an unanswered question. "This is a main concern, a main question and maybe the answer will only be possible after the surgery," he said, adding that there could be large variations in the results. Scuderi acknowledged that ethical questions would have to be addressed, particularly if the risks involved, including immunological ones, could be justififed since the penis was not a vital organ. "Plastic surgery always favours innovation and breaking new frontiers. I don't think that I am the only one that wants to do this type of surgery, I just want to be sure that this type of surgery will benefit the patient," he said. "I don't want only to be the first one. The important thing is to see if the (health ministry) ethical committee will allow this operation. I asked for the ministry's consent because I want to be sure that it is the best thing to do," he said.

Scuderi said that at least at the beginning he would turn down any eventual requests from men who wanted to receive a transplanted organ larger than their natural one. "For the moment the answer is 'no' because the surgery is very complicated and very risky surgery. It's not an aesthetic procedure," he said.

And in related news...

Chinese doctors craft new penis for child

BEIJING, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Chinese doctors have crafted a new penis for a boy who lost his natural one in a scuffle with a temperamental donkey, state media said on Wednesday. Army surgeons in China's capital made the new organ for six-year-old Jiang Rongming out of his own skin and abdominal tissue, Xinhua news agency said. Jiang said he was "quite happy" with the doctors' handiwork, adding he was now able to urinate normally for the first time since the accident earlier this year, Xinhua said. Jiang's penis was bitten off while he was petting a donkey outside his home in northeastern Jilin province.

News of Jiang's plight caught the attention of a Beijing-based doctor, Ma Fushun, who brought the boy to People's Liberation Army Hospital Number 262 for examination. "By the time the boy arrived in Beijing, the bitten part had festered, his scrotum was swollen and his kidneys and urethra were hurting," Xinhua said. Doctors declared the operation a success after two weeks of observation, and said they were confident Jiang would regain full use of the organ. "If he has another restoration operation when he is 18 or sometime before he marries, his sexual functions will be normal," Ma said. The military hospital waived fees for the operation, which cost more than 10,000 yuan ($1,205), Xinhua added.

Let's just read that again:
"Jiang's penis was bitten off while he was petting a donkey."
Hmmm. No, perhaps best not to dwell on that one. Let's move on instead to someone else whose actions require explanation.

Kenyan farmer injured trying to milk elephant

NAIROBI, Oct 30 (Reuters) - A young farmer was badly injured by an irate elephant after he tried to milk her while she was grazing with her calf, a Kenyan newspaper reported on Friday. The Daily Nation said Peter Baraza, 21, crept up on the wild elephant near Lake Nakuru in Kenya's Rift Valley and managed to pull nearly a pint of milk before the cow realised it was not her calf that was suckling. The elephant tossed Baraza and his half-filled can in the air and pursued him as he scrambled, badly winded, up a nearby tree. It then uprooted the tree with its trunk and waved it in the air with Baraza still clinging to the branches. The Daily Nation said the cow was finally distracted by a group of screaming women and Baraza was rescued and taken to hospital. The newspaper did not say why Baraza -- who suffered broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder -- tried to milk the elephant.

Lightning kills entire football team

KINSHASA, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Lightning killed all 11 members of a football team during a match in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while leaving the opposing team untouched, a Kinshasa newspaper said on Wednesday. "Lightning killed at a stroke 11 young people aged between 20 and 35 years during a football match," said a report in the daily L'Avenir. Thirty other people had received burns at the weekend match, said the report which was sourced to the Congo Press Agency. It said: "The athletes from (the home team) Basanga curiously came out of this catastrophe unscathed."

The two teams in the match, in eastern Kasai province, were drawing 1-1 when the lightning struck, the paper said. "The exact nature of the lightning has divided the population in this region known for its use of fetishes in football," it added. There was no official confirmation of the report as a rebel war affects much of the east of the country. Heavy storms since the weekend were reported to have washed away shanty homes in parts of the capital Kinshasa, killing a boy in one district.

S.African police probe woman's headless foetus

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 28 (Reuters) - South African police are investigating a case of culpable homicide after a headless foetus was removed from a pregnant woman on Tuesday, police said. "It is suspected at this stage that the head was either pulled off or cut off during an attempted abortion," said a daily police crime statement. The unidentified 37-year-old woman, who was about six months pregnant, was in a serious but stable condition in Johannesburg General Hospital.

Growing old disgracefully...

SANTA CLARA, California - There were three elderly ladies -- but only one handicapped parking space. When the fracas was over, 88-year-old Edna Gilliam was in the hospital with a broken hip. Gloria Owens, 67, was awaiting news of possible criminal charges. And Owens' 98-year-old mother was a potential witness in the bizarre battle over parking at the California hospital. "It is somewhat bizarre for ladies at this age to be involved in physical confrontation," Sgt. Anton Morec of the Santa Clara police department said on Tuesday. "Obviously there were some emotional hot buttons pushed."

Police said the dispute erupted on Monday after Gilliam pulled into a parking space for the handicapped at the Kaiser Hospital that Owens, who was bringing her mother for a medical appointment, had been waiting for. When Owens went to Gilliam's car and knocked on the window, she was ignored -- because Gilliam is hard of hearing. As Gilliam left her car and began walking to the hospital, Owens approached from behind, tugged at her purse, grabbed her sweater and eventually spun her around. In the altercation that ensued, Gilliam was knocked to the pavement, fracturing her right hip.

Morec said the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office was reviewing the case for possible criminal charges, while Gilliam remained under observation after undergoing surgery on her hip. "You will see incidences of road rage on the news, but rarely does it involve women, and particularly women at this age," Morec said. "But we've all experienced waiting for a parking space and have somebody else slip in. Obviously there was some passion and emotion in this particular case."

Leopard watches TV then dozes off

NEW DELHI, Oct 29 (Reuters) - A leopard sneaked into a house in northern India, climbed on to a bed and watched television before dozing off, the Asian Age daily reported on Thursday. The owner of the house, in a suburb of Chandigarh, thought that her four-year-old son was referring to a TV wildlife documentary when he came into the kitchen and said there was a "tiger" in the room. But her amusement turned to horror when she peeked into the bedroom and saw the big cat sprawled out on her bed. She grabbed her son and fled.

"The leopard, after watching TV for over an hour, apparently got bored so he rolled over and went off to sleep on the bed," Asian Age said. Forest department officials tranquillised the leopard a few hours later with a dart pistol and carried it to a zoo.

Colombian cleric sees too much flesh in church

BOGOTA, Oct 27 (Reuters) - A Roman Catholic priest said Tuesday that worshippers in Colombia's steamy Caribbean port of Barranquilla were showing up for church in scanty outfits that revealed too much. Glotario Emer was quoted on local radio as saying he had recently told parishioners at the San Luis Beltran Church that communion would be denied to anyone who failed to wear "decent clothes." "I'm not demanding that they dress in luxury, just decently," Emer said, adding that there were theological reasons to demand certain minimum standards of dress. "A low cut blouse is one thing. But if it's a cut where you can see the breasts, and where the belly is shown, I think it's inconsiderate for people to dress like that," he said.

In one recent case, he said a man waiting to receive communion changed his mind because of the temptation he suffered while standing in line with a girl who was practically naked. "I could see everything," he quoted the man as saying. In other cases, he said people had arrived in church "in slippers, gym shorts, undershirts and sometimes almost in their pyjamas." Emer said a degree of solemnity had to be observed in church despite Barranquilla's oppressive tropical heat. "We have to educate people," he said.

China university exorcises Halloween spirits

BEIJING, Oct 31 (Reuters) - When the grim reaper paid a Halloween visit to one of China's most prestigious universities this week, he found himself no match for Chinese police. Students at the Beijing Foreign Language University were puzzled at the sight of two black-robed figures with green skeleton masks handing out flyers for a local bar's Halloween Party. "We thought maybe they were terrorists from Cuba," said Wang Jun, a 21-year-old English major. "They looked like devils." The silent, hooded spectres drew a crowd, and also attracted security police who promptly hustled them away to the campus police office. "You can't practise your religion here," a senior plainclothes officer scolded them, angrily shaking the flyers.

Forty-five minutes later, two shaken Bulgarian students, Georgy Georgiev and Dossety Cvetovov, emerged and told Reuters it had taken 15 minutes to convince the police they were not passing out religious material. "We wrote 'All Saint's Eve', in Chinese as the translation for Halloween, so I guess that's why he thought it was religious," said Georgiev. "That was the first time we've done this, and I guess it will be our last," he added.

Finnish priest rebuked for trying to wake the dead

HELSINKI, Nov 6 (Reuters) - A Finnish Lutheran vicar has been reprimanded by his bishop for trying to wake a four-year-old boy from the dead, the tabloid Iltalehti reported on Friday. The newspaper said vicar Markku Koivisto, from a small town 150 km (90 miles) north of Helsinki, prayed over the body of the drowned child and led parishioners in an all-night vigil aimed at resurrecting him. The boy drowned in a lake as an ambulance called to his aid drove into a ditch and a medical helicopter sent to the scene flew to the wrong place, the newspaper said. No officials were immediately available to confirm the report.
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