Woman who had face transplant doing well
Updated: 2005-12-05 09:58
PARIS - The recipient of the world's first partial face transplant was
thriving medically and psychologically a week after her groundbreaking surgery,
one of her doctors said Sunday.
woman, bottom, right, is examined by a surgeon, who confers with other
hospital staff, part seen, in his image from video released by the Amiens
hospital in France December 2, 2005. Doctors at the Amiens hospital on
Friday, Dec. 2, 2005, said the woman was the recipient on Sunday, Nov. 27,
2005, of the world's first partial face transplant. The 38-year-old woman,
whose identity has not been disclosed, was mauled by a dog in May, leaving
her with severe facial injuries that her doctors said made it difficult
for her to speak and eat. The donor was a brain dead woman. [AP]
The woman, whose face had been partially disfigured by a dog, appeared
relatively normal after the operation and doctors were pleased with her mental
state, Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard said in a telephone interview. Doctors had been
worried about the potentially negative psychological effects of receiving part
of someone else's face.
"She is perfect," Dubernard said. "Psychologically, she is doing very well."
Dubernard, one of the woman's two lead surgeons, said that the 38-year-old
would remain hospitalized in the southeast city of Lyon for four to six weeks.
She must take drugs to prevent her body from rejecting the donated facial parts,
which Dubernard has said carry "a slightly more elevated risk of cancer."
The woman received a section of a nose, lips and chin in the 15-hour
transplant surgery on Nov. 27 in the northern city of Amiens, near her home. The
woman, the divorced mother of two teenage daughters, has not been identified by
She was mauled by a pet Labrador in May, leaving her with severe facial
injuries that her doctors said made it difficult for her to speak and eat. The
dog was put down.
The weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche quoted one of the woman's
surgeons as saying she "had no more face" before the procedure. "She only had
her eyes, and when she saw her daughters she cried," Sylvie Testelin told the
The partial face was donated by the family of a woman who was declared brain
dead. Her identity has also not been made public.
Despite the upbeat news, critics cast a shadow on the groundbreaking
transplant, with some saying doctors rushed ahead with a radical ¡ª and untested
¡ª procedure, bypassing classic reconstructive surgery when the situation was not
"This is pure experimentation," Emmanuel Hirsch, a medical ethics professor,
told Le Journal du Dimanche. He said he felt surgeons rushed into the operation
when "all the guarantees had not been given."
Hirsch handles ethical issues at a new council within the French Health
Ministry agency that coordinates organ procurement ¡ª and approved the
transplant. Hirsch told the newspaper he was aghast that he had not been
informed of the case.
The council was formed only in September, and Carine Camby, who heads the
agency, told Le Journal du Dimanche that there was a "certain urgency" in the
case because scar tissue that was forming could have made the transplant
Surgeons have said the necessary precautions were taken.
"We explained everything to her, the benefits and the risks," Testelin told
Dubernard led teams that performed a hand transplant in 1998 and the world's
first double forearm transplant in January 2000.
The hand transplant recipient later had it amputated. Doctors said the man
had become "mentally detached" from his new hand and failed to take the required
drugs. His body rejected the limb.