HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Friday, December 16, 2005

More on the Ethics of Face Transplant

The New York Times has been all over the bioethical implications this story, ever since its piece on Dec. 6, "Ethical Concerns on Face Transplant Grow," by Michael Mason & Lawrence K. Altman (blogged).  In the last couple of days, they've published these articles:

  • "As a Face Transplant Heals, Flurries of Questions Arise," by Craig S. Smith (Dec. 14)
    • in the rush to perform the first face transplant, were corners cut to avoid ethical issues?
    • is the carnival atmosphere compromising the patient's well-being?
    • "Among 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 Ms. 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."

    • "Critics have already questioned the ethics of a commercial arrangements brokered by Dr. Dubernard ['the flamboyant French doctor and politician in charge of Ms. Dinoire's post-transplant treatment'] in which exclusive rights for photographs and video of the operation were given to Microsoft's Corbis photo agency under an agreement that allows Ms. Dinoire to share in the proceeds from the materials' sale."

  • "The Face of the Future," by Ruth La Ferla & Natasha Singer (Dec. 15)

    • What's next? Cosmetic face transplants? The authors sample lay opinion on the nettlesome issue.  Sound farfetched?  Check back in 20 years . . . .


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