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Boston Children’s Hospital starts world’s first pediatric hand transplant program

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Boston Children’s Hospital is announcing Monday that it has started the world’s first hand transplant program for youngsters, with the goal of restoring limbs to victims of devastating infections, fires, or accidents.

A hospital ethics committee approved the program several months ago following a two-year review, and doctors said they will begin evaluating children immediately.

The surgery, which usually involves transplanting part of the arm as well, has become widely accepted in the medical community during the past decade for adult amputees. There have been nearly 70 operations worldwide, three of those in Boston.

Still, the ethical issues, considerable for adults, are even thornier for younger patients. They include whether the benefits of transplant surgery justify the risks of life-long drugs to suppress the immune system.

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