Apparently the world’s first human head transplant will take place in December 2017. It appears to be a global collaboration. Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero announced the procedure in 2013, and recruited Chinese surgeon Xiaoping Ren to help him. Valery Spiridonov, a 30-year-old terminally ill Russian patient who suffers from muscular atrophy, has volunteered for the procedure.
The video above explains how the procedure will take place. Spiridonov’s head will be removed from his body, cooled to 15 degree celsius, and then grafted on to the body of a brain-dead person. If it sounds bizarre, that’s exactly what it is.
No wonder many in the scientific community have expressed their scepticism. According to East Texas Matters: “Some of the scientific community have harshly criticised this procedure – and even the idea of it – as junk science and highly unethical. Some say it’s a waste of time and creating false hopes. One critic said the surgeons should be charged with murder if the patient dies, which is very likely.”
Anto Cartolovni and Antonio Spagnolo, two Italian bioethicists, pointed out the problem with the plan in a letter to Surgical Neurology International after Canavero’s paper was published in 2016.
“Despite his [Canavero’s] vision, modern cognitive science shows that our cognition is an embodied cognition, in which the body is a real part in the formation of human self,” they write. “Therefore, the person will encounter huge difficulties to incorporate the new body in its already existing body schema and body image that would have strong implications on human identity.”
Put simply, does a person remain the same person if their body is swapped while their head remains?