So, evidently this real surgeon intends to really do a head transplant.
The patient for Canavero’s first attempt at the head transplant has already been chosen, and identified as Valeri Spidonov. He is a 30-year-old Russian man who has Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, which wastes away his muscles and means that his health is rapidly declining.
Well, I should hope so. Anybody volunteering for this experiment had better be in truly dire circumstances.
So, more than a few echoes of Frankenstein in this one. Personally, I’d be a lot happier to try out a flying car than a head transplant.
Bioethicist Arthur Caplan says, “Ethically the big obstacle is what will happen if I stick an old head on a new body. The brain is not contained in a bucket—it integrates with the chemistry of the body and its nervous system. Would a brain integrate new signals, perceptions, information from a body different from the one it was familiar with? I think the most likely result is insanity or severe mental disability.”
To which I’m all, Well, no, probably the *most likely* result is death. I doubt you’ll get as far as insanity, or even consciousness. You really think you can fuse the nervous system of a head with a different body and get that to take?
On the other hand, you know, speaking of radical surgery, if we always waited to perfect medical techniques before using them, we’d still be letting people die of brain cancer rather than figuring out surgical techniques to save them. In fact, we’d be letting everyone die of practically everything. I believe that surgeons used to suffer death threats for wanting to operate on dying women for ovarian cancer, isn’t that right? I’d be way more interested in, say, Keith Black’s opinion on this procedure than a bioethicist who thinks a medical procedure shouldn’t be tried until it’s, quote, ready for prime time, unquote.
Still . . . I’d rather try out a flying car than this first step toward Jackson’s Hole-style brain transplants.