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Face/OnFace Transplants and the Ethics of the Other$
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Sharrona Pearl

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226461229

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226461533.001.0001

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Decoding the Face-Transplant Debates

Decoding the Face-Transplant Debates

(p.88) Chapter 4 Decoding the Face-Transplant Debates

Sharrona Pearl

University of Chicago Press

This chapter introduces a case study, exploring the popular, medical, and bioethical debates following the first partial face transplant of Isabelle Dinoire in 2005. It concentrates on the technical aspects of the surgery, as well as the way that it was framed by surgeons and bioethicists in the medical literature during early attempts to get ethical approval for the FAT. The chapter argues that there was space in the initial journalistic coverage of the surgery to imagine it as something other than strictly cosmetic and strictly self- serving, imagining and taking seriously the therapeutic possibilities of facial interventions. The earliest news narratives were cautiously positive, celebrating the practical advantages of the procedure for (recipient) Isabelle Dinoire and future patients. It then looks at how and why that space constricted as Isabelle Dinoire and her doctors were put on journalistic trial for attempting to win what newspapers around the world dubbed “the face race”. While broad bioethical concerns provided the ostensible framework for these challenges, the underlying narrative rested on a discomfort with Dinoire’s own right to the procedure, which occupied an ambiguous space between medically necessary reconstruction and elective aesthetic surgery. Ultimately coverage was highly critical and negative.

Keywords:   Isabelle Dinoire, bioethics, journalism, frame analysis, medical literature, France, Jean-Michel Dubernard, transplants

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