Five US men and seven women will secretly visit a medical clinic in Ohio in coming weeks to vie for(1) the chance to have a radical(2) operation that has never been tried anywhere in the world.
They will smile, raise their eyebrows, close their eyes and open their mouths.
The Cleveland Clinic's Maria Siemionow will study their cheekbones(3), lips and noses. She will ask what they hope to gain, and what they most fear. Then she will ask: "Are you afraid you will look like another person?"
Because whoever she chooses will endure the ultimate(4) identity crisis. Dr Siemionow wants to attempt a face transplant(5).
She is exploring the medical frontier(6) in the hope of giving people disfigured(7) by burns, accidents or other tragedies a chance at a new life. Today's treatments still leave many with scar-tissue(8) masks that do not look or move like natural skin.
These people have already lost the sense of identity that is linked to the face. The transplant is "taking a skin envelope" and slipping their identity inside, Dr Siemionow says.
Her supporters note her experience, planning, the team of experts assembled(9) to help her, and the practice she has done on animals and human cadavers(10) to perfect the technique.
But her critics say the operation is too risky for something that is not a matter of life or death, as organ(11) transplants are.
They paint a surreal(12) image of a worst-case scenario(13): a transplanted face being rejected and sloughing away(14), leaving the patient worse off(15) than before.
Such qualms(16) recently scuttled(17) face transplant plans in France and Britain.
Ultimately, it comes to this: a hospital, doctor and patient willing to try it.