Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ethical Lapses in Recent Procedures

I keep meaning to post about the world's first partial face transplant, which was performed in France earlier this month. Of course the procedure would be pioneered in France, I thought. One of the most disturbing films I've ever seen -- Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face -- came out of France. The movie is about a man who kidnaps a succession of young women so he can transplant their faces onto his daughter's disfigured one.

Now the New York Times reports that there might have been ethical lapses in the case. The face donor might have committed suicide, and the patient might have tried to commit suicide as well, raising questions about whether she was mentally stable enough to consent to such a risky surgery.

The article also says this about the patient:

Whether her overdose was a suicide attempt or not, Ms. Dinoire's doctors say that she had argued with one of her daughters earlier in the evening before taking the pills. She passed out on a sofa in her apartment as the pills took effect and her black Labrador, Tania, apparently tried to wake her, pawing at her face and eventually biting and chewing at her lips, nose and chin.
I can't help but think of the movie Hannibal!

Questions have also been raised in another pioneering operation, this one in South Korea and involving stem cell research. I don't know that much about it, only that there are questions about the egg donors (one of whom was? or possibly might be? a junior member of the research team, leading to speculation that she might have been pressured to donate). NPR also reported yesterday that one of the paper's co-authors wants to remove his name from the paper due to his concerns about its accuracy.

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