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See Inside February/March 2006

Facing a Transplant

As soon as surgeons in France had performed the first partial face transplant (below) late in November, psychologists began to question whether the patient was mentally stable enough to handle the stressful, high-risk procedure. The unidentified woman's face had been mauled by her dog, and doctors had said the damage was too severe for reconstructive surgery. Evidence suggested the woman was suicidal or at a minimum traumatized, but surgeon Jean-Michel Dubernard of Edouard Herriot Hospital in Lyon told the media that the woman had undergone thorough psychological testing that showed she was ready for the transplant's challenges.

Since then, experts have begun to discuss how any analyst could fully know if an individual were “ready” for such a novel procedure. Some psychological readiness criteria exist for patients who seek elective plastic surgery, but there is little literature about the mental attributes that make someone a good candidate for reconstructive surgery, much less a highly visible transplant.

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