Sunday, December 11, 2005

...Gave Good Face...

Face:Off, For:Real
Originally uploaded by T.Almeida.
The woman who had the first ever face transplant at the hands of French surgeons says she has no regrets and that when she looked in the mirror for the first time, she was "sure it was me".

It seems like a success, but, as we are reminded in this interview with Dr. Eugene Alford from Baylor College of Medicine, the doctor is the same doctor who did the first hand transplant, and that hand later had to be amputated. Imagine the major downer it would be to have to have your face removed after the intense upper of having a new one after a dog mauled you.

Further, Dr. Alford points out the lack of research surrounding the procedure. What's funny to me is he also points out that there was no "ethics review with this patient or the surgery" which is comical because, what's the implication? That the woman wasn't told that it's a no-no to go out and play practical jokes on people with her identity now that she has a new face? I am moving to the forefront of the debat here by declaring, and this is the final word on the subject, if the procedure is not medically problematic then it is no more ethically problematic than a kidney transplant. So there!

In other news: The reports the ABC News story that the woman has now sold the movie rights to her story. Jonathon Moreno, bioethicist at the University of Virginia, is quoted:

"Physicians are supposed to protect their patients who must be emotionally vulnerable in this situation," said Moreno, a professor of biomedical ethics at the University of Virginia. "Her psychological counseling should have included assessing the implications of this offer."

Rosamond Rhodes, bioethicist from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, justifies the woman's decision as a matter of monetary need:

"Even if her medical expenses are fully covered by the French national health system, it is hard to see how she would have had an income since she was mauled, how she can work during her recovery or how she will find employment in the future," Rhodes said.

Ok, sure she's "emotionally vulnerable", but what are these "implications"? Why should she not sell her story if somebody's buying? Even if she were independently wealthy, why is it at all problematic that someone says, "We want to make your story into a movie," and she says, "Ok, write me a check"?

The real controversy of face transplantation, like all "living donor" transplantation, is the Terri-Schiavo-like nature of the donor. I was not overly troubled by Terri Schiavo's story, or stories like it, but I was a little bit. From a mother's perspective (and I'm not a mother of course) I can see how there could be a glimmer of hope that the ghost is still in the machine, with Terri's eyes moving back and forth and her "laughing" and moaning. This story argues similarly that "Brain Death" is not really death at all. But, of course it is, right?


anne arkham said...

So who's going to play you when they make your story into a movie?

Stroll said...

This man:

Stroll said...

...and you?

anne arkham said...


I'm thinking Angelina Jolie to play me. She's crazy, and she does a lot of volunteer work. We have those things in common. Of course, she'd have to bind her chest. And maybe borrow Nicole Kidman's prosthetic nose.

Stroll said...

Good choice, I think she is the most beautiful woman ever. Anyway, I encourage you to adopt a slew of multi-racial refugee orphans, but please don't pick up her homewrecking habit. ;)

S.D. said...

I personally have mixed feelings about this whole face transplant business. One one hand I think it was a brilliant thing for this lady who needed it, but I can't help but imagine some dirty whore drugging an Abercrombie Model and slicing his/her face off for transplant to the Black Market. I mean, okay, it's hard to be sympathetic to that, but you know what I'm sayin'.

Stroll said...

I have ripped off a few faces in my time, but never, *ever* for the purpose of using it to replace my own. I do have *some* morals, you know.

Murky Thoughts said...

Dead/not-dead is not the bioethical question. Brain/no-brain is the question. Schiavo was a no-brainer. I concur on the face saving maneuver being utterly unproblematical. Bioethicists are nerds, and if I can tell someone's a nerd, that's it. It's definitive.

anne arkham said...

I don't see the black market thing happening. Beautiful faces look the way they do because of bone structure, not just flesh. Angelina Jolie's face would not look the same draped over someone else's bones.

Plus, the face would still be hugely scarred where they sewed it on. And there's the chance of rejected tissue, etc.