Perhaps you saw this on the news. I think I caught a glimpse of it somewhere but when it came up on my Twitter feed from Journal of Medical Ethics, I went and did a little digging.
Fortunately New Scientist Magazine had carried an article on it. Sergio Canavero, Surgeon at the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, first proposed the idea in 2013 and he now says it is completely possible by 2017.
Canavero plans to announce the project at the annual conference of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) in Annapolis, Maryland, in June 2015.
I don’t even know what to say to this latest “Scientific research???
Basically doing a head transplant requires cooling the recipient’s head and the donor body to extend the time their cells can survive without oxygen. The tissue around the neck is dissected and the major blood vessels are linked using tiny tubes, before the spinal cords of each person are cut.
Details will be presented at the conference in June however you IF you ARE interested in this you can read some of the details here.
Transplanting living human heads onto new bodies raises extraordinary ethical questions. But so did a non-beating heart donor a few years ago. Canavero intends to use brain-dead organ donors to test the fusing of the spinal cord with Polyethylene glycol.
Dr. Scripkoa neurologist and bioethicist with an interest in headache, traumatic brain injuries and concussions at Salinas Valley Hospital in California said that “many of the ethical implications related to the surgery depend on how you define human life. “I believe that what is specifically human is held within the higher cortex. If you modify that, then you are not the same human and you should question whether it is ethical. In this case, you’re not altering the cortex.” However, she adds that many cultures would not approve of the surgery because of their belief in a human soul that is not confined to the brain.”
So it all boils down to yes maybe it CAN be done, But SHOULD it be done?
- When does human life begin?
- Who should determine’s when someone is dead?
You know my belief, life begins at conception and ends when true death occurs? It is not our choice but God’s. He is the author and finisher of life. The beginning and the end. True death occurs WHEN the soul leaves the body.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; ALL the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16
Vital organs need to be fresh and undamaged for transplantation. Vital organs (from the Latin vita, meaning life) include the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and pancreas. In order to be suitable for transplant, they need to be removed from the donor before respiration and circulation cease.
We know that brain death is not true death. We know that without blood and oxygen the brain it starts to die within a few minutes. So I think we can conclude that in a head transplant the brain would need to alive with blood and oxygen flowing into both the donor and the recipient. As Dr. Canavero said doing a head transplant would require cooling the bodies of both donor and recipient to slow down cell death.
My question is WHY is this cooling NOT being done in hospitals to prohibit the brain swelling after a traumatic brain injury?
I posted on guidelines for treating trauma here and asked why hospitals aren’t doing it as a standard protocol?
As I quoted from the Nova interview between Dr. Jamshid Ghajar:
It’s a lot easier just to put the patient on the ventilator and then turn up the rate and then give them some drugs and come back next week and see how they’re doing. They’re lying there in a coma. They’re not screaming out for help. They’re not saying, “I’m in pain.” And so it would be quite easy to say, “Well, they have half a foot in the grave, why do anything else?”
“That’s the real issue. I think if these patients were awake and saying, “Listen do something for me,” we’d be doing a lot more for them. But because they’re in a coma and they cannot speak for themselves, we’re treating them the way they are now.”
I find in unconscionable that we are on the verge of head transplants as a scientific reality and doctors can’t immediately use hypothermia to cool down the body and the brain of an injured person upon first entering the hospital.
Dr. Jamshid Ghajar continued, “here are a lot of young people, children, especially, who are dying unnecessarily. These kids could live and have a very good quality of life, and they’re dying.