A surgeon in Italy believes it is now possible to perform a whole body transplant, in which someone’s head could be stitched onto someone else’s body.
Sergio Canavero, an Italian surgeon belonging to the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, believes the new innovative surgery could save the lives of those with terminal cancer or with incurable disorders involving the muscles or the nerves.
The procedure would involve taking the body of someone who is completely brain dead and stitching the new head onto their body. The idea is that the person would retain their thoughts, memories, and personality, but would be given a new, healthy body.
Both the patient and the donor would have their heads severed from the spinal cord at the same time and doctors would fuse the head and new body together with a ‘glue’ called polyethylene glycol.
The transplant patient would then be put into a coma for four weeks to allow the head to fuse with the body. Meanwhile, the body would be given a series of shocks in order to stimulate the spinal cord and strengthen the new connection.
Canavero claims he would be ready to do the first transplant by 2017, but there is much debate as to whether this procedure would actually work, as well as major problems with the ethics involved. For instance, if someone then went on to have a baby – the baby would have been created using the eggs or the sperm of the donor body.
Canavero claims that among those that would benefit from the surgery, include former actor and now quadraplegic, Christopher Reeve. Reeve requires a wheelchair and portable ventilator due to his spinal chord injuries. Another beneficiary might include the famous theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, who suffers from motor neuron disease.
Canavero also suggests that the new transplant would eventually be able to help extend the lives of every day people rather than simply limiting the procedure for those with health problems. Whilst it may sound like a tale from Shelley’s Frankenstein, it may just be the next ultimate cosmetic surgery.