An Italian doctor recently confirmed that it will be possible to transplant a human head onto another body by 2017. The transplant will not only attempt to prolong life and assist with paralysis, but it may help those with gender identity disorder (GID) or dysphoria, according to Newsweek.
Dr. Sergio Canavero claims that in this day and age, it is very possible for doctors to perform human head transplants, as there aren’t any obstacles hindering them from performing the surgical procedure. Canavero says, “I think we are now at a point when the technical aspects are all feasible.”
Now all he has to do is get everyone on board with the human head transplant idea.
In June, he plans to attend the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgeons in Maryland to convey all of his ideas, just as he did during his first conference in 2013.
“If society doesn’t want it, I won’t do it. But if people don’t want it, in the US or Europe, that doesn’t mean it won’t be done somewhere else, [sic]” Dr. Canavero stated. “I’m trying to go about this the right way, but before going to the moon, you want to make sure people will follow you.”
Although Dr. Canavero sees the human head transplant as a great surgical operation, not everyone shares his vision. There were several doctors who were opposed to the idea and exclaimed that the procedure is simply impossible.
Richard Borgens is a director of the Center for Paralysis Research at Purdue University, and he’s told New Scientist that “There is no evidence that the connectivity of cord and brain would lead to useful sentient or motor function following head transplantation.”
A bioethicist at New York University, Dr. Arthur Caplan, gave his opinion on the matter through an article in which he wrote on Forbes. He stated the following.
“To move a head onto someone else’s body requires the rewiring of the spinal cord. We don’t know how to do that. If we did, there would be far fewer spinal cord injuries. Nor, despite Canavero’s assertions to the contrary, is medicine anywhere close to knowing how to use stem cells or growth factors to make this happen.”
“This is such an overwhelming project, the possibility of it happening is very unlikely,” Harry Goldsmith stated in a magazine – he’s a neurological surgery professor at the University of California.
Doctors then went on to speculate the cost of the human head transplant, claiming as follows.
“It would also be a very expensive surgery; I can’t imagine it being available on the NHS. It would be the preserve of rich individuals. Is that a good use of that sophistication of surgery? I’m not convinced at this stage and I just don’t know how feasible it would be.”
With the disapproval of other doctors, Dr. Canavero was still hopeful. He claimed that “If you are suffering an incurable, muscle wasting disorder, laid up day in day out, with no possibility of recovery and I can offer a new chance, what would you say?”
There have been no record of a doctor executing the head transplant on a human, but it has been conducted on an animal in 1970 by Dr. Robert White – a neurosurgeon – which wasn’t a success. The animals (monkeys) ending up being paralyzed and had very limited abilities, such as seeing, hearing, and tasting. The animals ended up dying nine days later.
Dr. Canavero claims that he already has a Russian patient that has volunteered to go through with the human head transplant in 2017. Will you be next to volunteer?
[Image courtesy of Patrick J. Lynch/Flickr]