Maybe you've already heard about the world's first successful penis transplant, which occurred in March at a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. The story of the world's first successful penis transplant began with a young man losing his organ after a botched ritual circumcision. Three years later, this young man became part of a study conducted with University of Stellenbosch and Cape Town's Tygerberg Hospital. This team hopes to help the hundreds of men who suffer injury because of unsafe Ulwaluko (a passage to manhood ceremony that includes circumcision) rituals each year.

The nine-hour penis transplant operation involved microscopic surgery to connect many small blood vessels and nerves. Professor Frank Graewe of the division of plastic reconstructive surgery at Stellenbosch University said, "It's a massive breakthrough. We've proved that it can be done. We can give someone an organ that's just as good as the one that he had."

The unnamed recipient of the world's first successful penis transplant was told that it could take as long as two years for his new organ to do all the things a penis should do. Imagine the doctor's surprise when, a mere five weeks later, the patient had not only achieved erection, but had also successfully engaged in sexual intercourse.

Interestingly, the BBC reports that doctors in Cape Town engaged in much discussion over the risks and moral implications of the world's first successful penis transplant. Apparently, some have even suggested that the procedure isn't worthy of the funding it receives because an operation like this is not life-saving. Dr. Andre Van der Merwe, one of the surgeons involved in the study, disagrees. "Psychologically, we knew it would have a massive effect on the ego. You may say it doesn't save their life, but many of these young men, when they have penile amputations, are ostracized, stigmatized, and even take their own life. If you don't have a penis, you're essentially dead. If you can give a penis back, you can bring them back to life."

Previous Penile Transplants Unsuccessful

Penile transplants have been attempted before, but have been unsuccessful. In 2006, doctors in China performed a penis transplant that appeared to be medically successful. However, two weeks after the operation, the patient experienced a "severe psychological problem" that led to the new organ being removed. That sounds like the basis of a horror movie to me. The Penis That Drove Men Mad…

A Pilot Study Launched for Penis Transplants

The pilot study is continuing at the Cape Town hospital where nine more patients have signed up for the procedure. Why so many? Botched circumcisions are actually a big problem in South Africa even though it's taboo to discuss it. The young man who received the successful penis transplant, whose identity is kept secret, lost his penis to gangrene after an Ulwaluko ritual was performed on over a dozen men using the same cutting tool. The entire organ was amputated. Worse, literally hundreds of young men have been maimed or killed in this ritual in recent years. This could make finding donors a big hurdle to overcome.

Donor? Yeah…that's a tricky issue. A penis is not a kidney. No one is born with a spare. Well, almost no one. No matter how loved you are, you're unlikely to find a member of your family willing to donate their love muscle. Could it be possible that new technology could result in lab-grown organs that eliminate the need for living donors? Let's hope so. Lab grown vaginas are already in the works.

It's amazing that a successful penis transplant can happen, really. But wouldn't it be nicer if fewer young men were mutilated by unsafe rituals? Surely the deities in question wouldn't be bothered by some alcohol swabs, clean utensils, and maybe a first aid kit. It's also interesting to note how much interest there is around this particular transplant. After all, surgeons are now able to successfully transplant everything from major organs to an entire face. The penis may be a rather small part of the body, but it carries a lot of weight in most cultures.