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Doctors cut off transplant hand

LONDON, England -- The world's first hand transplant patient has had his new limb amputated after telling doctors to cut if off.

New Zealander Clint Hallam was given the hand in a pioneering operation in France in 1998 but said his body had now rejected it.

Surgeons insist he failed to follow the recommended course of treatment after surgery.

Hallam said that for the first year his new hand, which had previously belonged to a motorcyclist killed in an accident, had functioned well.

But since then there had been constant "pockets of rejection" that have covered it in scabs.

Microsurgeon Professor Earl Owen -- from the team that transplanted the hand -- said it was removed, at Hallam's request, in a short operation at an undisclosed London hospital on Friday night.

He said Hallam had failed to stay in regular contact with his doctors. Hallam denies that the rejection was sparked by his failure to take his medication.

'Enough is enough'

"At the time that the rejection started I was under a strict regime. The doctors were monitoring almost on a daily basis what medication I was taking," he told the BBC.

He insisted that he only gave up taking the medicine 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'," he said.

He added he was sure there were drugs that he could take that would make his transplanted hand look as good as the one he was born with, but there were no guarantees the new hand would ever be "functionally useful."

Professor Owen said in a statement that Hallam left the care of his doctors in January 1999, three months after the operation, and disappeared for over two months.

"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," it said.

"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."



RELATED STORIES:
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U.S. doctors perform first hand transplant surgery
January 25, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Hand Transplant
Professor Earl Owen
British Transplantation Society

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