Posted on 4/3/14

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Fact: It's 2014. The mega-awesome Nic Cage/John Travolta 90s thriller Face/Off came out years before the world's first successful face transplant ever happened. 
Fact: Since 1997, medical technology has massively improved and totally changed the way we view scientific boundaries.
Hypothesis: With all the medicinal and technological advancements that the world has gone through since 1997...  could it be possible for two people to switch faces, bodies and — effectively — lives? I had a chat with a world-renowned plastic surgeon from Boston, who requested to be referred to here only as "Dr. D" and kindly answered the burning questions I've had since age 10. 

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Could two people switch faces with each other? 

Dr.D: "The answer is that, yes, there have been facial transplants. There was a woman in Connecticut who was mauled by a chimpanzee. It took off almost all of her face and she had a facial transplant. With two different people, though... ethically, it's impossible. The immorality behind that type of procedure is insane. Two people alive with each other's faces? Come on, that couldn't work. But, medically — yes it's possible."
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What would be the impact?

Dr. D: "Like any organ transplant, it would take months to fully heal. I mean, you'd have to have the same blood type and a match. You'd need what's called an 'immune match' and you'd need a tissue match, too. It wouldn't be like Face/Off."
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How many lasers would there be?!

Dr. D: "What? Lasers? No lasers at all. Why lasers? It would just be a regular surgery. Sewing blood vessels and nerves. It's like plugging in a lamp — you have to connect all the dots. And there are many. I don't know why there would be lasers, though. That's ridiculous." 
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Could you live without skin on your face? 

Dr. D: "It couldn't happen. You need dermas. It's medically impossible to live without a face. You'd have so many infections... you'd die from all sorts of cross-contaminations. You'd drool all the time. It's ridiculous."
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Could you switch voices with someone?

Dr. D: "You know how some people have a tracheotomy? When that happens, they have an artificial speech implant put in. It couldn't sound like someone in particular. It's very robotic sounding and it couldn't specifically sound like anyone's voice."
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Conclusion

As far as the validity of Face/Off is concerned — it's kinda, sorta, almost possible. I mean, if Travolta and Cage had been complete blood and tissue matches and then spent months and months in bed after surgery... then yes, it's slightly possible. But the way the movie does it: lasers, drugs, explosions, doves... not so much. Does this make me reconsider my stance on how awesome Face/Off is? No. Friggin. Way.


Jeremy Glass has been waiting for this article, in some form, his entire life. 

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