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From the American Head and Neck Society
December 2016

The Right to Look Human—Head and Neck Surgery in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: The Chris O’Brien Memorial Lecture

Author Affiliations
  • 1Program in Global Surgery and Social Change, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Office of Global Surgery and Health, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2016;142(12):1143-1144. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2016.3086

When Sambany, a farmer in his 60s from rural Madagascar, arrived for surgery, he had spent 30 years with a 16-lb tumor on the left side of his face (Figure). In those decades, he had traveled to 10 hospitals, only 3 of which actually had surgeons; none agreed to take his case. Because his mass was removed by volunteer surgeons with Mercy Ships, the surgery itself was free, but transportation to the hospital required the sale of a plot of land, 4 days carried on someone’s back to get to the nearest road, and a 2-day trip by road halfway across the country. Sambany’s head and neck tumor had robbed him of his right to look human. Restoring this right cost him a decade of his life and the loss of his livelihood and required him to travel farther than anyone should for medical care.