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Dateline Capetown: Hope for Botched Circumcisions

There may be hope for victims of circumcisions that do not end as expected.

In March, Stellenbosch University reported on a successful penile transplant. Dr. Andre van der Merwe, head of urology at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, and a team of surgeons spent nine hours and months of planning to perform a transplant during last Hanukkah at Tygerberg Hospital. Of course the issue is no laughing matter. The lack of a penis leads many South African men to end their lives. Nearly all the men are from the Xhosa, a group of 5 million South Africans who perform a risky type of circumcision – called ukwaluka – on their adolescent men. In 2014, 38 Xhosa boys died from the ritual and ten lost their penises. In 2013, about 40 boys died. Currently the physician has nearly a dozen men on the waiting list for transplants. The elders and leaders of the Xhosa, who were consulted, have approved the surgery. “They said, ‘If you can do it, please, go ahead. It will be like bringing someone back from the dead,'” he said.

A hurdle remains. Finding donors. In this case, in order to receive permission from the donor’s family, doctors had to fashion a pseudo-penis for the dead man out of his abdominal skin. That way he could be buried with something resembling a penis.

In Israel, there have been about thirty “botched” circumcisions in the past year, which is a decline from over three dozen in past years

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