Bioethics News

World’s first face transplant recipient dies. Time to reconsider the ethics of this practice

It seems that in the light of what happened to Isabelle Dinoire, it might be time to reconsider the ethical aspects of facial transplantation.

According to French newspaper Le Figaro (06/09/2016), Isabelle Dinoire, the Frenchwoman who underwent the world’s first face transplant in 2005, died last 22nd April at 48 years of age in Amiens University Hospital, where she had originally undergone the procedure.

Isabelle Dinoire, la mujer que en 2005 fue sometida al primer trasplante de cara en el mundo, murió el pasado 22 de abril tras una enfermedadMs Dinoire underwent surgery at 38 years old, after being severely disfigured by her pet Labrador in May 2005. Following the incident, she had surgery in which lips, nose and chin were transplanted, donated by another woman who had committed suicide. As is essential in these types of operations, she was required to take intense immunosuppressant treatment. Despite this, however, Isabelle suffered several episodes of transplant rejection in recent years. The last one occurred last winter, causing her to lose functionality of her lips.

Perhaps as a result of her treatment, especially the immunosuppressants, Isabelle was diagnosed with two cancers, which may have caused her death.

More than 30 other face transplants have been performed since 2005 following this first face transplant, with uncertain outcomes.

Face transplant ethics

In an editorial in the British Medical Journal the same year (click HERE), the authors analysed the advantages and drawbacks of facial transplants, particularly stressing the psychological consequences and medical problems that can arise. The eventually awarded a positive assessment to these types of transplant, since “it seems very hard to justify why these types of procedures should not be permitted” (Diario Médico 18 November 2006).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.