He does not mind being called Dr. Frankenstein and readily admits his main goal is a quest for immortality despite the ethical questions hounding his project but Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero believes he is capable of doing the first ever human head transplant by 2017.
Canavero could be jailed if ever he will really attempt the human head transplant but the neurosurgeon has been preparing for that possibility by studying Chinese for several years now – so he could do the operation in China where he claimed that the people, the government, and the religious officials are more receptive to the process.
The idea of transplanting a human head to another person’s body sounds so outlandish that it certainly belongs to the movie and entertainment genre, not in medicine yet Canavero wants to change all that. He claims his work will be a success and other people (very rich people, that is!) would soon go to him for help in achieving immortality by having their heads transplanted to a younger body.
The idea still sounds crazy even after he made explanations about its feasibility but would you believe Dr. Frankenstein now has a very willing volunteer?
Suffering from Werdnig-Hoffman disease, 30-year-old Valery Spiridonov personally messaged Canavero two years ago to volunteer for the procedure. His physical condition is worsening with each passing year, so despite knowing the risks of the head transplant, Spiridonov wants to give it a try all for the name of science and the chance that he could have another body.
According to Canavero, he will be able to attach Spiridonov’s head to the donor body in just an hour; though the entire procedure of attaching everything could take up to 24 hours and would need a team of 150 doctors and nurses.
But American Association for Neurological Surgeons president Dr. Hunt Batjer is strongly against the procedure even if it is going to be a success. Batjer believes that should the volunteer survive, he would be experiencing something “worse than death” itself. He says he does not wish it on anyone and would not allow even the best scientists/surgeons to do it to him.
The director of medical ethics at Langone Medical Centre in New York University, Arthur Caplan, also shares Batjer’s views. According to him, “the bodies of head transplant patients would end up being overwhelmed with different pathways and chemistry than they are used to and they’d go crazy.”
So, Dr. Canavero would truly become Dr. Frankenstein and create a real-life monster if he goes through with the procedure. Right now, he and Spiridonov excited about the prospect but the question of whether they will push through with the original plan remains to be seen. I guess we’ll all have to wait for 2017 to know for certain.