A Russian man named Valery Spiridonov has volunteered to be the first person ever to receive a complete head transplant. The surgery is expected to take 36 hours and involve 150 doctors and nurses. Spiridonov was chosen over others for the procedure after Skyping with controversial Italian doctor, Sergio Canavaro.
Canavaro’s optimistic plans have mostly been met with skepticism by other medical experts. Some have compared him to Frankenstein.
“Am I afraid?” Spiridonov says, about the head transplant surgery. “Yes, of course, [but] you have to understand that I don’t really have many choices. If I don’t try this chance, my fate will be very sad. With every year my state is getting worse.”
The head transplant works by removing the head of the patient and transplanting it onto the body of someone who is brain dead but still has a functioning body. This procedure has only been tested so far on a monkey in 1970, and the results were less than successful. Despite this fact, Canavaro claims that all the necessary science and technology is there for him to succeed with a human: “I think we are now at a point when the technical aspects are all feasible,” he said.
“I would not wish this on anyone,” said Dr. Hunt Batjer, a naysayer and president elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons. “I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death.”
Many experts say that fusing a head onto a different body could result in an intense level and quality of insanity.
Arthur Caplan, director of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Centre has described Dr. Canavero as “nuts.” He believes that 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.”
The surgery is scheduled for December 2015.