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Face transplant surgeons select second patient
THE French surgical team that carried out the world’s first face transplant has selected a 23-year-old man who was disfigured as a child as a potential recipient in a second operation.

Bernard Devauchelle, who carried out a partial face transplant two weeks ago on a woman whose lips, nose and chin had been torn off by a dog, would like to perform the same surgery on the man, mutilated as a toddler in a fireworks accident.

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

Dinoire, 38, from the northern French town of Valenciennes, was last week said to be doing well, although she was reported to have 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 in Paris Match magazine showed only a faint scar on her face, but doctors say it could be months before she gains any sensation in the tissue. The danger of rejection will remain high for the remainder 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. But it captured the attention of the world as debate raged about the ethics of such transplants.

Dubernard, a rumbustious figure known to his friends as “Max”, was accused in the French press of using the operating theatre as a springboard to a political career: he has long harboured ambitions to become Lyon’s mayor.

His considerable clout as an MP for the ruling party and a friend of President Jacques Chirac and Bernadette, the president’s wife, was useful in winning approval for the operation, said medical experts.

Like Dinoire, Devauchelle’s next potential transplant patient is said to come from the northern region around Lille. Devauchelle believes only a transplant can improve the man’s appearance sufficiently for him to lead a normal life.

Dinoire had 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. She is expected to reap rich rewards from 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 is successful, the methods used in Dinoire’s surgery could be followed by hospitals all over the world. China said it hoped to perform similar transplants, and a military hospital in the eastern city of Nanjing was inundated with telephone inquiries from would-be recipients, according to the China Daily newspaper.