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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Psychology of Face Transplants is Subject of New Book

A timely new book addresses the psychology of face transplants, just as the world is marveling over news of the most extensive such transplant to date.

Someone Else's Face in the Mirror: Identity and the New Science of Face Transplants was written by Carla Bluhm, a developmental psychologist and visiting assistant professor at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, and Nathan Clendenin, Allegheny class of 2007.

The book begins with the story of Isabelle Dinoire, the recipient of the first face transplant, her surgery and her battles with tissue rejection. But the book's scope widens with a look at how surgical teams --- including three from the U.S. --- are in a global race to perform the first full face transplant. It also explores how medical history has led to this point, with prior successful transplants ranging from body parts as simple as corneas to those as neurologically complex as a heart, a hand or a penis.

"Although, potentially, a face transplant could negatively impact a person's sense of identity, most face transplant recipients are already in the midst of experiencing the psychological problems related to identity," says Bluhm. "Thus face transplants also hold remarkable promise for positively addressing psychological problems related to a person's sense of identity."

Surgeons at Cleveland Clinic have reported that they have completed the most extensive facial transplant to date. The surgery took place in recent weeks on a woman who wishes to remain anonymous but is said to be pleased with the results. That surgery lasted 22 hours. The woman had had no upper jaw, nose, cheeks or lower eyelids -- and was unable to eat, talk, smile, smell or breathe on her own. It has not been disclosed what caused her disfigurement.

Prior to coming to Allegheny, Bluhm taught at Westminster College, University of Washington, Arizona State University, University of Rhode Island and Columbia University. Clendenin is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Praeger Publishers expects to publish the book in April 2009.

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Blogger 44 Grove St. said...

Thank you. We hope that the book helps people to continue a fruitful discussion on the topic of face transplantation and issues related to identity.
Carla Bluhm

8:58 PM  

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