Dec. 8, 2005 -- U.S. doctors and ethicists had mixed feelings after learning that the woman who underwent the world's first partial face transplant had signed a film deal in which she would profit substantially from the movie's earnings.
The London Times reported Thursday that patient Isabelle Dinoire, British documentarian Michael Hughes and Dinoire's doctors signed the deal three months before the operation took place.
On one hand, doctors noted that the deal could have unduly influenced the 38-year-old Dinoire to agree to the surgery, and that it could motivate other physicians to prematurely attempt experimental procedures. But another doctor said that the film deal provided an income for a woman who would be unlikely to return to work any time soon.
"It is a real travesty," said Dr. Raffi Der Sarkissian, a plastic surgeon and assistant clinical professor of the Boston University School of Medicine, in an e-mail. "...I would not condone sale of photos, videos or details of the technique for product. With the advent of 'reality shows' and exposure of techniques all over the media, there exists a risk of experimental procedures being done not for the advancement of surgery, but for money and self-aggrandizement."
Biomedical ethicist Jonathan Moreno said he hoped that the French medical team explored the emotional impact the decision could have with Dinoire, who was severely disfigured after her dog mauled her face. The dog was trying to wake the woman up after she had taken sleeping pills in a suicide attempt, various news reports state.
"Physicians are supposed to protect their patients who must be emotionally vulnerable in this situation," said Moreno, a professor of biomedical ethics at the University of Virginia. "Her psychological counseling should have included assessing the implications of this offer."
Dinoire was likely acting in her own best interest when she signed the deal, said bioethicist Rosamond Rhodes, a professor of medical education at the Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City.
"Even if her medical expenses are fully covered by the French national health system, it is hard to see how she would have had an income since she was mauled, how she can work during her recovery or how she will find employment in the future," Rhodes said.