Tuesday, December 06, 2005

'Face'-off between advancement and celebrity

The recipient of the world's first face transplant is doing well medically and psychologically a week after her complex and groundbreaking surgery, incoming reports say. Isabelle Dinoire's personal life has been a matter of much conjecture in France after it was revealed that she had tried committing suicide in a fit of depression last May. What added to the chatter was the disclosure that the unidentified woman whose nose, lips and chin were grafted on Isabelle's face had hung herself to death. It sounded almost like the propensity to kill oneself that both had shown made Isabelle more compatible to receiving a face transplant from the said donor.

This surgery which has once again raised the ethical and legal implications of new-age medical procedures (the long list includes stem cell therapy and abortion laws) has got mired in the dramatic lives of its protagonists. Newspapers are going berserk with the personal details of Dinoire’s life. That she is a divorcee with two daughters has arguably contributed to the mystique surrounding her. What the French team of specialists has achieved is a radical breakthrough for the medical community, and it is a comment on our times that it’s got intermeshed with the culture of celebrity that every other cause seems to attract nowadays. There must be discussion, but it should be confined to the ethics of transplanting a face and the mental adjustments that a person might have to undergo before they begin to accept a ‘new’ them. The face is, after all, what defines us: it is at the very root of our personal identity. What we are witnessing however is prurient interest in the lives of the cast of characters. That must be avoided at all costs.

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