French doctors perform first partial face transplant

  • World
  • Wednesday, 30 Nov 2005

LYON, France (Reuters) - French doctors have performed what they said on Wednesday was the world's first partial face transplant, giving a new nose, chin and lips to a woman disfigured in an attack by a dog.

Surgeons from two hospitals carried out the operation on a 38-year-old woman on Sunday in the northern city of Amiens. 

"The patient is in an excellent state and the transplant looks normal," the hospitals said in a statement. 

"The transplant was taken from a multi-organ donor ... with the agreement of the family." 

The woman had been left without a nose and lips after the dog attacked her last May. She had been unable to talk or chew. 

The operation was led by Jean-Michel Dubernard, a specialist from a hospital in the southeastern city of Lyon, and Bernard Devauchelle from Amiens. 

Stephen Wigmore, chair of the British Transplantation Society's ethics committee, said teams in France, the United States and Britain had been developing techniques to make face transplants a reality. 

"This is the first facial transplant of the modern era," said Iain Hutchins, a facial surgeon and chief executive of Saving Faces - The Facial Surgery Research Foundation, a medical research charity. 

Hutchins said that although all medical advances should be celebrated, the facial transplant operation had thrown up many moral and ethical issues. 

"This was a `quality of life' operation rather than a life-saving operation and has many implications for the recipient and donor's families," he added. 

(Additional reporting by Patricia Reaney in London) 

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