A burn that leaves scarring on the body may cause considerable trauma and pain, but when that same level of burn affects the face, it may be catastrophic. According to the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, facial disfigurements can have profound physiological and psychological effects.
Even when surgeons can correct the physical damage, the psychological damage may be permanent.
Skin grafts can restore some of the most basic functions, but surgeons face challenges repairing eyelids, noses and lips. For example, complicated features of the lips include the tissue texture and color as well as the complex muscles around them that are necessary for eating, drinking and speaking without dysfunction. The outcome of the reconstruction is often both visually and functionally displeasing.
Facial skin is not necessarily replaceable. This particular area of the skin has the highest density of free nerve endings, and these provide more sensitivity to heat and touch than skin in other areas. Scientists believe these also play a role in supporting the immune system.
Society biases toward perceived attractiveness can affect whether someone gets a job or finds a partner. Not only that, but facial appearance also affects a person’s self-concept, and disfigurement can cause an identity crisis that affects every area of life. Research shows that it can lead to poor self-esteem, negative self-image, impaired social interactions and lower quality of life.
According to Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute, permanent facial disfigurements fall under the legal category of grievous bodily injury. Compensation for these often includes damages for pain and suffering and lost quality of life as well as covering medical expenses and lost wages.