French doctors have given more details about the world’s first ever partial face transplant. They say the 38-year-old woman patient, disfigured after being mauled by a dog, is doing well after the controversial operation. She has received the nose, lips and chin of a brain-dead donor. The surgeons told a news conference they faced tough ethical questions before the operation, but decided it was the only way to help the patient because standard techniques were too difficult.
“We’ve taken part in an important story about solidarity, between a donor and a recipient,” said one of the surgeons, Bernard Devauchelle, who has also carried out hand transplants. “It is certain that philosophers will study the value of this symbolic gesture.”
Doctors say the patient was given intensive counsellings before the operation, which involved transplanting tissue, muscles and veins. Face transplants have been technically possible for several years but doctors have held back over concern about the psychological impact on patients and the risk of the new face being rejected by the immune system.