Wednesday, December 14, 2005
World's First Face Transplant: Dark Revelations 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Last month, French surgeons performed what was termed the world's first face transplant on a woman whose face was severly disfigured by dog bites. A story in today's New York Times [reg. req.] reveals some strange background details now coming to light:
Computer image of the facial area transplanted in November's surgery in France.  Image © 2005, courtesy KSTP-TV5Among the most disturbing aspects of the debate are conflicting reports from doctors about whether the transplant was the result of two suicide attempts, one successful by the donor, and one failed by the recipient. If [recipient, 38-year old Isabelle] Dinoire's disfigurement resulted from an attempted suicide, it would raise questions about her emotional stability and her ability to consent to such a risky operation. Reports that the donor committed suicide also have implications for Ms. Dinoire's future, because if true, and if the transplant is successful, it would mean that for the rest of her life, she would see in the mirror the nose, mouth and chin of a woman who herself met a brutal end. [read full story]
Dinoire's relatives deny that her injuries resulted from an attempted suicide, saying she took "two or three doses" of sleeping pills, passed out, and stepped on the family dog who then attacked her. Probably, much of the squeamishness originates from the "Frankenstein"-ish aura surrounding cadaver face transplantation - and from the fact a face transplant is, after all, a life-threatening procedure without being life-saving per se. Still, had this information been publicly known beforehand there would have likely been even more opposition to the experiment. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports French officials are outraged that the transplant recipient's - and the donor's - names have been revealed in the press.

Last year, American doctors at the Cleveland Clinic had selected 12 potential recipients of facial transplants, but had not actually performed one of the surgeries.

MORE: "Face Transplant Gives Hope to Many," [AP, via KSTP-TV5 Minneapolis-St. Paul]