An Italian surgeon, Sergio Canavero, recently mentioned his project of human full-body transplants. He believes transplanting the head of someone onto another’s body is possible. Canavero stated that this might be possible by 2017.
Body transplant: From noble to gross
Literally donating one’s heart after one’s death is considered to be a noble deed – leaving this world while giving away a precious part of one’s body so that another whose life is compromised survives. The transplant of other organs is deemed as noble too, if not more. The world of science, constantly evolving, has witnessed such headway that life can be sustained in this fantastic manner. Recently, though, an exaggerated concept of body transplant has budded off the mind of a surgeon from Italy, Sergio Canavero, of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group.
The Italian surgeon purports that full-body transplants will soon be possible. According to him, shifting the head of a living person onto a donor body will happen in two years’ time, in 2017. Suddenly, the word transplant has taken a gross turn, hasn’t it?!
Back in 2013, Sergio Canavero proposed the idea of having the head of someone attached to another’s body. He now wants to take thing several steps further. He will rally support for the project, seeking sponsors at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons in Maryland in June.
Taking inspiration from the past
In 1970, a neurosurgeon, Dr Robert White, performed a similar transplant on two rhesus monkeys. However, the one that was the recipient of the transplanted body part died nine days later. His experiment was severely criticised as being grotesque and barbaric. It seems that Canavero does not share the opinion of those who condemned that project.
The GEMINI spinal cord fusion
Dr Canavero has explained the process behind the transplant. He says that the procedure would entail the reconnection of the severed stumps of the two spinal cords. He has termed one of the steps “GEMINI spinal cord fusion”, whereby the cords will be sharply severed to cause the minimal damage.
Critics are sceptical
Other scientists are sceptical about the process. For instance, a clinical professor from the neurological surgery at the University of California, Harry Goldsmith, said in statement when commenting on the idea of Canavero:
“This is such an overwhelming project, the possibility of it happening is very unlikely. I don’t believe it will ever work, there are too many problems with the procedure.”
Swapping heads is unethical
The biggest issue revolving around Canavero’s ambitious project is about ethics. Which country would allow for such a work to be done? Harry Goldsmith explained that the question of ethics will surely arise.
“Should this surgery be done at all? There are obviously going to be many people who disagree with it,” affirmed Harry Goldsmith.
Canavero seems to remain convinced of his project. He indicated that he would not mind carrying out the experiment in other countries.
“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. 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.”