French surgeons ready to perform second face transplant

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The French surgical team that carried out the world's first face transplant amid a storm of controversy, has apparently already selected a potential recipient for a second operation.

The second transplant will be carried out on a 23-year-old man who was disfigured as a child.

Surgeon Bernard Devauchelle carried out the partial face transplant two weeks ago on a woman whose lips, nose and chin had been torn off by a dog.

He is eager to perform the same surgery on the man who was mutilated as a toddler in a fireworks accident.

Apparently Devauchelle has plans to present the proposal to the authorities regardless of whether or not last month's operation on Isabelle Dinoire, who was given the lips, nose and chin of a woman donor, is successful.

It is reported that Dinoire, 38, from the northern French town of Valenciennes, is doing well, although she reportedly complained to doctors that she found her new nose “wider” than the one destroyed by her labrador as she lay unconscious in May after taking an overdose of sleeping pills.

Photographs of Dinoire published last week showed only a faint scar on her face, but doctors say it could be months before she gains any sensation in the tissue and the danger of rejection will remain for the rest of her life.

The 15-hour operation by Devauchelle and Jean-Michel Dubernard, a surgeon famed for performing the world's first hand transplant, involved hospitals in Lille, Amiens and Lyon, where Dinoire was convalescing last week.

The operation has generated a global debate about the ethics of such transplants.

According to the french press, Dubernard, a colourful character known to his friends as "Max", has used the operating theatre as a springboard to a political career: he has apparently long harboured ambitions to become Lyon's mayor.

Medical experts say his influence as an MP and friendship with President Chirac and his wife, helped him win approval for the surgery.

Devauchelle's next potential transplant patient is said to come from the same northern region of France.

It seems Devauchelle believes only a transplant can improve the man's appearance sufficiently for him to lead a normal life.

Isabelle Dinoire had previously been forced to wear a mask over her face to avoid frightening her neighbours and had lived as a virtual outcast in the months before her operation.

It is expected that she will be richly rewarded for the sale of photographs of the operation and the rights to a film about her role in the making of medical history.

If the graft proves to be a success, the methods used in Dinoire's surgery could be followed by hospitals all over the world.

China has already said it hopes to perform similar transplants.

It is reported that a military hospital in the eastern city of Nanjing was inundated with telephone inquiries from would-be recipients.

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