Bioethics in the making: "Ideal patients" and the beginnings of face transplant surgery in Mexico

Samuel Taylor-Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Medical teams around the world are increasingly gaining ethical clearance to utilise face transplant surgery as a reconstructive surgical procedure. Analysis of the beginnings of the operation in Mexico vis-à-vis the early uptake of the procedure in France reveals that this controversial experimental medical field has become loaded with national significance. The primary issue of dispute has been the dependence on life-threatening immunosuppressant therapy in a procedure that treats otherwise biologically healthy people. Attempts to resolve related debate has resulted in the emergence of what my interlocutors refer to as an "ideal patient", a person whose particular state of health and suffering render them operable within the current biomedical constraints. Drawing together the idiom of coproduction with the concept of sociotechnical imaginaries shows how this imagined patient category was refracted and stabilised as it entered into the Mexican context whilst producing patients and surgical experts as particular types of bioethical subjects. The flexibility and normative value of the "ideal patient" mobilises and is mobilised by surgeons, who themselves emerge as national bioethical subjects responsible for saving the face of nations in the midst of broader changes surrounding how State's should respond to medical advancement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-50
Number of pages24
JournalScience as culture.
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioethics
  • coproduction
  • face transplantation
  • imaginaries
  • mexico
  • quality of life

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