Imagine not being able to move your body. You can’t flip the channel on the TV and you can’t play your favorite sport. You are stuck in a wheelchair, or worse a hospital bed. Have you been like this for only awhile now, from a recent accident, or have you been like this for all of your life? There aren’t many options left for you, but….could a head transplant be one?
The first human head transplant is set to be performed in December of 2017 in China. This new proposal is stirring up much controversy. But should this be allowed? How is this beneficial? Is this even ethically right?
According to Tom Lamont’s ‘I’ll do the first human head transplant’, he states that head transplants will be beneficial to people suffering with body paralysis, muscular atrophy, or terminal cancer. Medical experts also say that head transplants would also be beneficial for people suffering from ALS. The success rate of this surgery, according to Michael Sarr, editor of ‘Surgery’, is 98-99% while the success rate of human heart transplants is at 90%.
The patient that will be undergoing this surgery is Valery Spiridonov, age 31. He has been suffering with severe muscular atrophy for all of his life. He has been in a wheelchair for all of his life. His condition is getting worse every year. He is running out of options and doctors believe his life could be ending soon. He has never been able to walk. He has never been able to stand up and sit back down. He is not able to move his body and complete the small tasks that we take for granted. But with this surgery he will be able to do that and so much more. He will live a much better life. Patient Valery actually contacted the head surgeon of this surgery, Sergio Canavero first; he volunteered himself for this surgery.
Head transplants have been successful on monkeys, puppies and mice. Valery is expected to have full recovery. So why shouldn’t patient Valery Spiridonov be able to have this surgery?
This procedure will run between 36-72 hours and requires a medical crew of 150 medics, 80 of them being surgeons. The donor body from a previously brain dead patient and patient Valery’s head and body will be cooled at -15 degrees celsius. The blood vessels and spinal cord are cut at the V1 and V2 vertebrae and will be clamped to block leaking. Patient Valery’s head will be transplanted onto the donor body and will be attached with special bio-glue that is composed of cells to make an adhesive sealant. Valery will later be induced an a 3 week coma to allow proper healing and will be giving drugs and medication during his coma. He will later have a year of rehabilitation to allow the him to acclimate to his unfamiliar body, he is expected to have full recovery.
Human head transplants are controversial because of the stigma and huge changes in the medical and surgical atmosphere. Is this ethically right? To some people it is not. However it should be allowed to not only save this man’s life but to help many others who are suffering with the same problem of not being able to move their body. In life, we are put in hard situations where we have to make hard decisions, Especially if you don’t believe in an afterlife, you want to make the most out of the life you were given. You might not agree with the idea of human head transplants, it might not be your preference, but head transplants could be an option for those who are actually suffering, an opportunity for a much better life. Thank you.