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Face transplant woman hits the streets

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The French face transplant recipient who received part of the visage of a brain-dead donor back in November has been out and about "without drawing stares", her surgeon has said.

According to the BBC, Dr Bernard Devauchelle told Le Courrier Picard: "Every day she passes by people with her face uncovered - and they don't necessarily recognise her."

The unnamed 38-year-old woman underwent surgery after her pet Labrador savaged her while she slept, in the process removing her nose, lips and chin. Although she is now "walking, riding a bike, chatting and eating", she still requires further treatment in Lyon and Amiens.

"When you look at her you realise there is something not quite normal about her facial mobility. But a certain expressiveness is slowly coming back," noted Dr Devauchelle.

The jury is still out on face transplants - on psychological, practical and ethical grounds. As Iain Hutchison, an oral-facial surgeon at Barts and the London Hospital, previously said: "In the short-term, blood vessels in the donated tissue could clot. And in the long term, the immunosuppressants fail. The drugs also increase the patient's risk of cancer."

Regarding the donor issue, Hutchison said: "Where donors would come from is one issue that would have to be considered. The transplant would have to come from a beating heart donor.

"So, say your sister was in intensive care, you would have to agree to allow their face to be removed before the ventilator was switched off. And there is the possibility that the donor would then carry on breathing," he added. ®

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