Science Fiction or Medical Breakthrough? Head Tranplants

Did your own head do a double take at the title of this post?

I know mine did when I first read this story.

Imagine it . . . someone being essentially decapitated and their head being placed onto another body.

This isn’t science fiction– but the real medical plan of Dr. Sergio Canavero— head of the Turn Advanced Neuromodulation Group.

And– he has a patient volunteering to be the first “guinea pig”. A patient that suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman disease which is a form of spinal muscular atrophy which can lead to severe muscle weakness causing a person to become ventilator and wheelchair dependent.

I’m most familiar with this disease in working with kids who suffer from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) . Children who suffer from this illness have relatively short life spans of about two years– though it obviously depends on what kind of medical care the family chooses such as life-long ventilator dependence.

This surgery could happen as soon as 2017.

Perhaps it is a worthy medical concept. I don’t know how I feel about it ethically. What I do think is that it would be a great plot for a medical thriller.

What do you do when the new body rejects the transplant? What is it going to be like for a person’s mind to be exposed to antibodies and hormones that it hasn’t been exposed to? What if the person is female but the transplanted body is male? Could any of these things cause a person to go insane?

I personally don’t see this type of surgery happening any time soon. As one article states– the soonest something like this could possibly happen is 2117.

Why?

Nerves. The crux of the issue is the severing of the spinal cord. Even now, in accidents where the spinal cord is severed– we don’t have the medical technology available yet to repair it so that the person is “fully functional” and not wheelchair bound. I think until this technology is available– a head transplant is still in the realm of science fiction.

What say you– is a head transplant a good or bad idea?

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