Monday, September 19, 2005

Face/Off: Beyond the Movie

The plot outline for John Woo's award-winning "Face/Off" reads: "A revolutionary medical technique allows an undercover agent to take the physical appearance of a major criminal and infiltrate his organization." The story is intense, and the film is generally well-reviewed ... and, ok, Nick Cage is a favorite no matter what, but I mention this film because "real life" is just about to do one of those "imitation" moves again.

In just a few weeks Dr. Maria Siemionow is going to attempt the first "face transplant," a beyond-the-movies story that is both fascinating and admittedly a little creepy. The NYTimes read gives the background, answers some questions that come to mind, and raises issues that didn't readily occur to me, like whether or not the recipient would share appearance with the donor (the quick answer is "mostly no"). The field of potential clients for the procedure has been narrowed to twelve, and those twelve will interview this week, scrutinized along a number of lines including whether or not there is a "good fit" with the project team. One clue to the gravity of this operation is that doctors have concluded "informed consent" would be impossible to give since results, even if successful to the level of best outcome, will be beyond the patient's ability to grasp. The support team is, of course, substantial.

Thinking in the direction of "body electric" ... wow!


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