Penis transplant: Patient lost organ in botched initiation

2015-03-13 18:00

Cape Town - The recipient of the world's first successful penis transplant is a 21-year-old man who lost his penis due to severe complications following a traditional circumcision, surgeons said on Friday.

Professor André van der Merwe, head of Stellenbosch University's Division of Urology, announced details of the groundbreaking operation at Tygerberg Hospital in Bellville, Cape Town.

The marathon nine-hour operation was carried out in December. Although this type of operation has been attempted before, this is the first time that a patient has made a full recovery, regaining all function in the organ.

The patient's identity is being protected for ethical reasons.


Van der Merwe said the recipient's penis had to be amputated in order to save his life when he developed severe complications from a traditional circumcision three years ago.

Every year, a number of initiates lose their penises during traditional circumcision ceremonies, which are considered an important rite of passage for many boys into manhood. Penises become infected due to the use of unsterilized instruments and because of conditions during the ritual in the bush.

Van der Merwe said there are no formal records on the number of penile amputations each year, but experts estimate there are as many as 250 amputations each year in the country.

"This is a very serious situation. For a young man of 18 or 19 years the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic. He doesn't necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men," says Van der Merwe.

"There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world, as many young men lose their penises every year due to complications from traditional circumcision," he said.

  • Blue*Reid - 2015-03-13 15:44

    Imagine if all the great doctors left because of BEE and AA, we need the talent and we need the experience. Work together, train together and stop chasing all our talent away, I am also very happy for the young man. We live in a very judgemental and nasty South Africa at the moment!

      Masela Dima Given - 2015-03-13 15:53

      leave alone idiot and leave smart ppl

      Blue*Reid - 2015-03-13 15:59

      So now I have to "leave" because I said "stop chasing all the talent away" or because I said we should work "together, train together" or the part were I said I am for "happy" the young BLACK man or the fact that I said we are "judgemental"... You look like somebody who will laugh and humiliate a brother without a penis, go back over the Limpopo and leave the NON RACIST here, good bye!

      Cebolenkosi Ntobeko Ngcobo - 2015-03-13 21:55

      As it is there is a shortage of skilled people such as doctors, engineers and scientists now a lot of the really good ones are leaving and going to the other countries to work and live there for many reasons including the ones you mentioned Reid I myself I am studying to be a civil engineer and hope someday to be a expert in my field

      Tony da Cruz - 2015-03-15 08:50

      Who cares, at least the young man will have a much "harder" life.

  • Simon Karabo - 2015-03-13 15:51

    I always tell people of South Africa that we are the one who can find the Cure of HIV/AIDS and no one believe me but the time is coming mark my words. A very good job to those doctors well done guys.

  • Peter Gibbs - 2015-03-13 16:05

    I wonder who is paying for this.

      bruce.hall.50115 - 2015-03-13 17:19

      Taxpayers. We pay millions for the department of health to monitor this ridiculous custom and because they can't do the job properly, millions more to give free medical service to the many that are sick afterwards.

      Marieta Wessels - 2015-03-13 17:29

      Dit is weereens 'n Suid -Afrikaner uit ons land wat 'n eerste reggekry het. Priceless. Geen geld kan vir enige soortgelyke promosie vir ons land betaal nie.

  • Mark Smith - 2015-03-13 16:26

    Well done to the medical team and good luck to to the young man who has had a life changing experience.

  • Sizwe Ernest - 2015-03-13 17:05

    This is funny just tell us that it a pipe not penis

  • Solv Ex - 2015-03-13 17:19

    I wonder uzochama how many ? s

  • Neels Minnaar - 2015-03-13 17:34

    What's better than roses around your piano? Tulips around your organ.

  • Akhenaten - 2015-03-13 18:06

    An upstanding achievement indeed.

  • Teboho Tshwanelo Lekhoaba - 2015-03-13 19:15

    The medical circumcision has to be highly recomended....these are very delicate situation that one can't easily cope with....

  • BJ New Creation Tembe - 2015-03-13 19:24

    The point is that they saved the man's life, the rest doesn't concern me.

  • Robert Coughlan - 2015-03-13 19:28

    Ritual circumcision carried out in this manner is simply barbaric. If they absolutely must do it, if they truly have to, why can they not just do it in sterile conditions, carried out by trained professionals who must prove themselves competent and register with the health professionals council? I'd prefer they didn't do it at all but if they care for their boys and truly want them all to have an opportunity to become fulfilled, self-actualized men, do them this one small favour. The shortsighted desire to preserve culture is damaging lives irreparably.

  • Thabelo Shoeshoe Moshoeshoe - 2015-03-13 19:29

    I'm soo proud of SA we making history and changing lives.

  • Nthokolose Puleng Marope - 2015-03-13 19:39

    Please make me understand, is someone's penis used for the operation or they manufactured a special penis for him?

  • Christo van Niekerk - 2015-03-13 19:42

    In Wynberg Kaapstad is daar n kragonderbreking van 7 ure maar News24 gee eerder aandag aan sulke stront as aan wat mense eerder raak!

      Us3rname - 2015-03-13 20:35

      Christo it's the first successful transplant in human history and you find the power outage in Wynberg more newsworthy? I doubt your news will attract as much traffic to the site.

  • Anton Olwage - 2015-03-13 19:44

    Now they can call him "GROOT BAAS"!!!

  • Joe Black - 2015-03-13 19:52

    If it ain't broke dont fix it. Glad this guy could get a new one. May he have much joy with it.

  • Harry Britz - 2015-03-13 19:54

    Ja Boet dis nie maklik vir n man om sonder 3 bene te loop nie

  • Patrick Massey-Hicks - 2015-03-13 20:03

    In 2015 they're still doing "traditional" circumcisions?

      Zukile Jamjam - 2015-03-17 21:27

      what do u think??

  • Martha St Clair - 2015-03-13 21:37

    Whilst I belive that all cultures should be respected, if a cultural tradition in any way endangers the life of a single person or child, it should be evolved in a way that will no longer happen. You can't excuse unnecessary death or disfigurement on culture. It's just wrong

  • Alfons Raymond Van Craeynest - 2015-03-13 21:48

    I will never donate my could end up on a rapist!!@!@

      Cebolenkosi Ntobeko Ngcobo - 2015-03-13 22:31

      Yea I don't think you donate it I would assume they took it from a person who know longer had use of it in other words that person was dead and most likely a organ donor

  • Cebolenkosi Ntobeko Ngcobo - 2015-03-13 21:49

    I'm Zulu and I get the whole passage to manhood thing for Xhosa boys but can we please get experts who've been trained to do circumcisions to do these initiations not some idiot from the local shebeen or else every year we'll keep hearing stories of boys having botched circumcisions at initiation schools

      Zikhona Mhlontlo - 2015-03-13 22:00

      Zulu boy stick to what you know, maybe you should also join and man up.

      Murray Graham - 2015-03-13 22:22

      Cebolenkosi, well said! If it has to be done to satisfy some supernatural witchcraft insanity, let's at least do it safely.

      Murray Graham - 2015-03-13 22:25

      Zikhona, it's tribalists like you that want to keep us all in the dark ages, just because it hurts your tiny intellect to leave customs behind, when humanist norms overwhelm you.

      Cebolenkosi Ntobeko Ngcobo - 2015-03-14 06:50

      @ Zikhona I've already been cut at a hospital all I'll say I think they should have professionals do these initiations people who know what their doing

  • Neil Cuthbert - 2015-03-13 21:52

    Hope they got the colour right?

  • Wouter De Vos - 2015-03-13 23:30

    I wish I could understand why this barbaric initiation practice is still tolerated. Where is our ever vocal Human Rights Commission when these young men die or are mutilated for life. Yet, let there be as much as a hint of initiation practices at a former Model C School or tarditional Afrikaans University they are up in arms and will leave no stone unturned, In my book this constitutes double standards.

  • Jayson Arends - 2015-03-13 23:45

    Heard they put a white mans piepie on for him

  • Japhet Gochela Mangena - 2015-03-14 01:46

    Every year Xhosa boys die or loose their pencils, those who succeed they become useless lazy theives irresponsible and disrespectful they do a lot of damage to their parents

      Neliswa Skenjana Breiter - 2015-03-14 09:46

      Shame you are a stupid idiot, many successful Xhosa men went through this practice, Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and others. My brother wenzelwa elisiko and he is educates working for a good company. Mhlawumbe you are inkwenkwe that is why you would make such a stereotyping comment . People should not comment on things they don't understand.

  • Anthony Barker - 2015-03-14 07:23

    Interesting to note that yet again African traditions turn to Western techniques to save the day...

  • David Mafemani Kwinika - 2015-03-14 08:03

    Going to de doctor is de best way

  • Refilwe Fifi Madihlaba - 2015-03-14 09:12

    I still maintain that the incibi should be a qualified doctor who has also been an initiate himself.

  • Neliswa Skenjana Breiter - 2015-03-14 09:58

    People should really not comment on things they don't understand, Ukwaluka is a Xhosa cultural tradition that many Xhosa men have gone through, men like Thabo Mbeki, Nelson Mandela and others. When done properly by qualified people there are no problems, not the scumbags who take advantage of little boys. Please respect other people s cultures and if you don't understand it rather do research than spewing verbal diarrhoea, Jewish and other religions do do circumcision as well and they are not disrespected, always the idiots without background or culture must always talk k#k..

      Robert Coughlan - 2015-03-14 14:44

      Culture is not an impenetrable shield behind which all manner of barbarism can hide. It's as open to criticism as anything else. To think otherwise is dangerously naive. The orthodox Jewish practice of 'Metzitzah b'peh' - look it up if you haven't heard of it, and be prepared to be shocked - is something which just does not belong, nor should it ever have been tolerated, but just because it is a 'cultural' practice, it's been given a free pass. It's time we stopped turning a blind eye to 'cultural' practices.

      Zukile Jamjam - 2015-03-16 21:06


  • Luyanda Sazi Duep Msane - 2015-03-14 10:58

    The Tradition is Babbaric, this might offend those who hold it dearly, but come on man, it's the 21 century. Everything is wrong about it, I don't know how one can justify it. People say once u have done it you become a man. Lol now that's a funny part, you go sleep in a bush for three weeks, cut some foreskin and than u become a man ? Many cultures are barbaric, that's why other people can't take us serious, I mean how the heck initiation make u a man ?

      Zukile Jamjam - 2015-03-16 20:57

      shut-up u knw nothing nkwenkwe endala

  • Stanford Mbizo - 2015-03-14 14:51

    I did not read or understood the cause of the penis in the first place. I do think surgery is a solution to this because the surgery itself is as traumatic as the amputation.

  • Stanford Mbizo - 2015-03-14 14:55

    If circumcision is the cause of loss of these male critical organs I suggest that the practice be banned. This surgery is just as traumatic as the practice that caused the loss.

  • Funwithgoats - 2015-03-14 17:05


  • george.jennings.14 - 2015-03-14 21:14

    The late Chris Barnard was the first to do the Heart Transplant. It is another local boytjie who has hit the jackpot. SA has so many talented skills but our esteemed leader will eventually drive them away because of the kleptocracy and abuse by the other racists in this country!

  • Leon Hall - 2015-03-15 01:42

    And the Boere Afrikaner must rush to the aid of the black man again. This time stitching his botched tottie back on. When will blacks wake up to appreciate this special nation they have in their midst...?? Never, they are too blinded and brainwashed by the ANC's special edition racism..

      Mary Watson - 2015-03-15 06:23

      Grow up you idiot! How is your comment helping to build this nation? Disgrace!!

  • Leon Hall - 2015-03-15 01:43


  • Robert Coughlan - 2015-03-15 08:01

    Fantastic to see surgical advances like this, as it gives victims hope. However, what would give potential victims, and the rest of society, more hope is if the community leaders looked inwards and did something about it, instead of just being defensive of their 'culture'. It is they who use their influence to enable the coercion of their young boys with the fear of being outcast or branded substandard members of their society if they don't undergo this ritual. Just like leaders and parents in other cultures think they are doing the right thing, these leaders and parents also feel like they're doing the very best for these kids, but not everything done out of good intentions is automatically right.

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