PARIS — The recipient of the world’s first face transplant, Isabelle Dinoire, has died, according to French doctors.
A statement released by Amiens Hospital, which performed the ground-breaking procedure in November 2005, said Dinoire died in April “following a long illness.”
She was 49 years old. The delay in announcing her death was explained in the hospital statement.
“In accordance with the will of her relatives, no obituary was published in the press in order to protect their legitimate privacy at that painful time,” the statement said.
Though the hospital did not provide any details on the cause of Dinoire’s death, French media reported she succumbed to complications from her most recent operation.
Dinoire suffered a rejection of the transplants last winter and lost part of the use of her lips, Le Figaro, a prominent French newspaper reported Tuesday. The heavy anti-rejection treatments she had to take contributed to the occurrence of two cancers, according Le Figaro.
Surgeons performed the operation when Dinoire was 38 years old, after her face was mauled by her dog.
The medical marvel created a wave of controversy at the time, with some questioning the ethics of transplanting a face before attempting reconstructive surgery.
French surgeons Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard and Dr. Bernard Devauchelle decided to carry out the operation to stitch on a nose, chin and mouth from a brain-dead donor, and opted out of the more traditional reconstructive surgery route.
Dinoire was given the lower part of a face taken from a woman who had committed suicide.
A year after having the procedure, Dinoire declared: “It may be someone else’s face, but when I look in the mirror, I see me.”
The surgery paved the way for other transplants involving varying combinations of facial parts performed in six other countries, including the United States.