Would you get a head transplant?

You’ve heard of full-face transplant, like the one that Charla Nash had.

Nash was savaged attacked, mauled and blinded by a friend’s chimpanzee. In May 2011, Nash received a new face in the third full-face transplant operation ever performed in the United States.

Charla Nash1l to r: Charla Nash before & after the chimp attack; in 2013, with new face.

Now get ready for full-head transplant.

Allie Bidwell reports for U. S. News, July 1, 2013, that an Italian scientist Sergio Canavero says he has improved on a procedure that has been unsuccessful in animal experiments, and is close to being able to affix one person’s head to another human body.

Head transplants have been attempted since the 1950s, when Russian scientist Vladimir Demikhov experimented with dogs. Twenty years later, American neurosurgeon Robert White conducted a successful head transplant by moving the head of one monkey to the body of another. The monkey lived for several days, but because White could not connect the two spinal cords, the monkey eventually died.

Dr. Canavero believes he has come up with an outline to successfully complete the first human head transplant in history, which could lead to solutions for those suffering from muscular dystrophy or tetraplegics with widespread organ failure.

Canavero describes in a recent paper a step to connect donor and recipient spinal cords – the one component that was missing from previous procedures because the technology to do so was not yet available.

But completing a head transplant is incredibly tedious, and the spinal cord fusion hasn’t been tested.

Though the procedure’s name suggests otherwise, the recipient would be receiving a new body, not a new head. Both the body-recipient and the body-donor’s heads are severed before the recipient’s is attached to a new body.

To be transplanted, the head would have to be cooled to between 55 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, the two heads must be cut at exactly the same time and in the same operating room. Surgeons then have one hour to connect the head to the donor body, which is also cooled and placed under cardiac arrest.

Canavero’s new development to connect the spinal cords is called the GEMINI procedure, during which surgeons cut the cooled spinal cords with extremely sharp blades. “It is this ‘clean cut’ the key to spinal cord fusion, in that it allows proximally severed axons to be ‘fused’ with their distal counterparts,” Canavero writes in his paper. Some chemicals – such as polyethylene glycol or PEG, which has a strong safety record in man – can then be used to immediately fuse the spinal cords.

Once the spinal cords of the recipient and donor are successfully connected, the body’s heart can be restarted, pumping blood into the brain, and “normal temperatures will be reached within minutes.”

Canavero told U.S. News that should he receive the necessary funding – about $30 million – the surgery would be possible within two years although there is still much work to be done. The spinal cord fusion needs to be tested, and the ethical aspects of the procedure needs to be addressed.

Though the surgery is primarily intended for people with severe medical conditions, Canavero says it could open the door to a moral dilemma. People who simply want to cheat death could hypothetically undergo the surgery to acquire a younger body.

Dr. Sergio CanaveroDr. Sergio Canavero, 21st century’s Dr. Frankenstein

I can just see it now: George Soros’ corrupt evil old head on a young body….

So what do you think?

My reaction when I first saw the news headline was “Ewwwww….” Just because science can do something, doesn’t mean it should be done.

And in answer to the question in this post’s title: “No, I wouldn’t.” Only people who don’t believe in God — the God who loves us so that He was willing to debase Himself by being born a human, endured unimaginably horrible torture, to die on a cross, forsaken by His most loyal companions — would so desperately cling to life as to get a full-head transplant in their futile quest for immortality.


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Susan Mullen
Susan Mullen
7 years ago

I agree with Dr. Eowyn. I’m also glad that Dr. Canavero is in Italy so my tax dollars are not paying him to “play God”.

7 years ago
Reply to  Susan Mullen

I back that, Susan.
It is dangerous playing God because one thinks they become God-like.
Accept not substitutes!

7 years ago

Just because science can do something, doesn’t mean it should be done.
~Well said.

..has improved on a procedure that has been unsuccessful in animal experiments…

This seem like animal cruelty to me!

7 years ago

Sounds creepy to me.

7 years ago

If he is capable of reconnecting severed spinal cords…then how about using that knowledge and technology to help those with damaged spinal cords that are not paralyzed. Other wise cease and desist.. It’s too creepy.

7 years ago

Of course under Obamacare the transsexuals will be suing to have their heads attached to the bodies of the opposite sex at our expense.

Once the “parts is parts” philosophy is accepted, nothing is out of bounds. I shudder to think o f the horrors can may be coming from this. I dare not mention them here.

7 years ago

I am SO utterly disturbed by this – no words!

7 years ago

Thank you Dr. Eowyn for this thought-provoking post. No, I would not acquiesce to a head transplant because essentially, I would be losing my brain, my mind, my intellect – that which is my partner to my free will and my soul.