Isabelle Dinoire, the woman who received the world’s first partial face transplant with a new nose, chin and mouth, has passed away.
Dinoire suffered catastrophic injuries to her face in May 2005 after her Labrador attacked her while she was sleeping. Less than a year later, she received a partial face transplant—the world’s first and a procedure that drew international attention and acclaim. The surgeons declared it a success but Dinoire struggled over the years as her body never fully accepted the new nose, chin, and mouth, which came from a donor.
Dinoire had been taking powerful immunosuppressant drugs for years, but she became ill last winter after her body rejected a new skin graft, causing her to lose some function in her lips. What’s more, the anti-rejection treatments appeared to have triggered two different cancers. She died on April 22, 2016 at the age of 49, but her death was only announced by the hospital in Amiens, France, earlier today. It’s not entirely clear why it took hospital officials so long to make the news public.
Dinoire’s death is a significant setback in the effort to help people who have lost portions of their face to disease or injury. Some critics contend that such “non-elective” surgeries are wasteful and dangerous.
“From the day of the operation I have a face like everyone else,” said Dinoire after her operation. “I can open my mouth and eat. Recently, I feel my lips, my nose and my mouth.”
Undoubtedly, Dinoire’s death won’t come in vain. It’s through pioneering work like this—and those who are brave enough to be on the receiving end—that progress is made in the medical sciences.