Is science going too far with the plans to transplant a human head onto a new body?
Amid controversy, the first candidate for a human head transplant has been decided. His name is Valery Spiridinov, a thirty year old computer programmer who suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman disease. Italian doctor Sergio Canavero is planning to remove Spiridinov’s head and transplant it onto the body of a brain-dead donor.
In 2013, Dr. Canavero put out a paper in Surgical Neurology International, where he cited an experiment in 1970 which ‘successfully’ transplanted the head of a monkey. “[Dr.] White and his colleagues successfully transplanted the head of a rhesus monkey on the body of another one, whose head had simultaneously been removed,” Canavero said. “The monkey lived 8 days and was, by all measures, normal, having suffered no complications.”
While Canavero believes that the technology to successfully transplant a human head is pretty much here, there are many who are repulsed by the idea and openly criticize it, even calling him Dr. Frankenstein. One witness to the cited monkey transplant case told CBS News that “it was just awful. I remember that the head would wake up, the facial expressions looked like terrible pain and confusion and anxiety in the animal. The head will stay alive, but not very long. This is bad science, this should never happen.”
Mr. Spiridonov remains firm on his position: “My decision is final and I do not plan to change my mind.” After suffering his whole life with the debilitating disease, he is seeking the chance of a new, healthy body before he dies. While every year his condition becomes worse, Spiridinov remains brave and optimistic. “I think that science is developed by those who are ready to take risks and devote themselves to it,” he said. “Am I afraid? Yes, of course I am. But it is not just very scary, but also very interesting.”