Transplanting a face is only half the challenge
Jean-Michel Dubernard, the French surgeon who conducted the ground-breaking face transplant, knows all about choosing the wrong patient. When he carried out the first hand transplant, the recipient refused to take his drugs or cooperate with doctors. The donated hand was eventually amputated.
Much has been made by surgical teams of the huge psychological resilience likely to be needed by patients chosen for face-transplant surgery, and the need for careful selection. So it is surprising to read newspaper reports claiming that the woman who received the first face transplant had tried committing suicide â€“ though others tell a different story. However grievous the disfigurement, somebody who has taken an overdose of sleeping pills does not seem to fit the psychological profile.
Other circumstances surrounding the operation raise questions. Her identity and what she looks like have leaked out. Pictures of her before and after surgery have been published, and a video of the operation is circulating within the TV industry. These items appear to have emerged against her wishes: the surgical team insists that she asked for anonymity. All of which suggests that security surrounding the operation was poor.