Sergio Canavero, a neurologist in Turin, Italy, has recently published a paper on the possibilities of performing a full-body transplant. The idea is to graft a living head of a patient who has severe physical impairments to a donor body, and if successful it will give the patient a better quality of life and even possibly prolong it. Organ transplants are routine procedures nowadays, but the reality of a full-body transplant is reason for concern. At Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio ,Robert White led a team in 1970 that tried to transplant the head of a monkey onto the body of another. It was almost a successful full spinal cord transfer, but the monkey could not move its own body. Primates and rats would be the main test subjects until a proven method is approved and significant results are shown.
Even though neuroscientists are skeptical because of the technical difficulties involved in reattaching spinal nerves, Canavero is enthusiastic. In Dr. Canavero’s publication an outline is presented of how the surgery can be performed, along with a startling statement, “If society doesn’t want it, I won’t do it. But if people don’t want it in the U.S. or Europe, that doesn’t mean it won’t be done somewhere else. I’m trying to go about this the right way, but before going to the moon, you want to make sure people will follow you.” Saving people and improving their quality of life is amazing, but this last statement may lead one to believe that there is more to the story.
Source: Ian Sample “First full body transplant is two years away, surgeon claims,” Guardian, February 25, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/25/first-full-body-transplant-two-years-away-surgeon-claim.
Student Researcher: Christopher Rocha (Indian River State College)
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)