World briefs 7/23/03

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Austrian doctors claim first tongue transplant

VIENNA, Austria -- The man believed to be the first recipient of a human tongue transplant was recovering Tuesday and showed no signs of rejecting the organ, his doctors said.

The 42-year-old patient, who had a malignant tumor on his tongue and part of his jaw, underwent a 14-hour operation Saturday in which doctors amputated his tongue and attached the new one.

Surgeons who performed the transplant said there was no evidence in the medical literature that such an operation had been carried out on humans before, and that they were convinced the procedure was the first.

"The tongue now looks as if it were his own -- it's as red and colorful and getting good blood circulation," said Dr. Rolf Ewers, head of the team of nine physicians who performed the operation in Vienna's General Hospital.

"It's very unlikely he'll regain his sense of taste," Ewers said. But regaining feeling and primarily, movement "would be an optimal result."

Traditionally, in cases where patients lose their tongues, surgeons remove a piece of their small intestines and graft that onto the tongue stump, the doctors said. Such patients are never able to speak clearly or swallow again, however, and must be fed through tubes.

Rights group: Comatose Amin has escaped justice

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- As Uganda's brutal former dictator Idi Amin lay in a coma in a Saudi hospital Tuesday, an international human rights group lamented that he was not put on trial.

"We regret that Idi Amin is dying without meeting justice for his crimes," Reed Brody, director of special prosecutions at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement issued by the New York-based group Tuesday.

"Amin was one of the bloodiest tyrants in a bloody century. It's increasingly possible to prosecute dictators outside their home countries. Unfortunately, the trend didn't catch up with Mr. Amin in time."

Human Rights Watch said it had asked a Saudi diplomat in 1999 about the possibility of Amin's extradition or prosecution, and was told that "according to Bedouin hospitality, once someone was welcomed as a guest in your tent, you did not turn him out."

Amin has been in a coma since he was admitted Friday to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in the Saudi port city of Jiddah, where he has lived in exile for years. On Tuesday, his condition was stable, a hospital official told The Associated Press without elaboration.

It is estimated that more than 200,000 Ugandans were tortured and murdered during Amin's regime, which lasted from 1971 until 1979, when he was ousted by Ugandan exiles and the Tanzanian army.

Officials launch Bush's AIDS initiative in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haiti has become the first country to implement a program spearheaded by President Bush to stem mother-to-child HIV/AIDS transmission.

The mother-to-child program is part of Bush's proposal to spend $15 billion over five years to help the hardest-hit African and Caribbean nations battle AIDS and the virus that leads to the disease.

"Haiti was chosen because" it is the readiest to go ahead, said U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean Curran, launching the program Monday at the Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections Clinic.

The clinic treated more than 21,000 patients last year and has opened 25 treatment centers nationwide where people are tested and counseled.

Some $4 million has been earmarked for the first year of the five-year program in Haiti. The United States expects to spend $60 million on AIDS in Haiti over the next five years.

The program should affect as many as 1 million women every year and reduce the possibility of mother-to-child transmission by 40 percent within five years, officials said.

In that time, 850,000 mothers should be tested, and 25,000 given AIDS drugs, said Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

-- From wire reports

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: