Face transplants will be technically possible within six to nine months – now the public must decide whether the procedure is ethically acceptable, says a leading UK plastic surgeon.

The issue will be debated during a meeting of the British Association of Plastic Surgeons starting on Wednesday. Peter Butler of the Royal Free Hospital in London will argue that face transplantation will be the only effective way of treating some severely disfigured patients, such as those who have suffered extensive burns or facial cancer.

But his own survey of 120 people including nurses and doctors revealed that while some would be willing to receive a face transplant, none would be prepared to donate their own face.