Craig Davies for Art-Sheep
Valery Spiridonov is a 30 year-old Russian computer scientist, who suffers from the rare muscle wasting disease Werdnig-Hoffman. Spiridonov has volunteered to become the first person in the world to undergo a complete head transplant. The patient sounds prepared to be operated on by surgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero who claims he can remove a head and attach it to a healthy body. Spiridonov stated that even though he is afraid, his decision regarding the surgery is final.
Dr. Canavero has told CNN that he has already gathered an amount of the money needed for the surgery, although he won’t disclose where his funding came from. Doctor and patient have talked through Skype but they have yet to meet. According to Canavero, after the announcement many people emailed him wanting to volunteer for the procedure. The surgeon has named this surgery, HEAVEN, an acronym for head anastomosis venture, which is the surgical connecting of two parts. Spiridonov’s new body would come from a transplant donor who is brain dead but otherwise healthy.
The first head transplant was performed in 1970 on a monkey. After the surgery the monkey couldn’t breathe on it’s own, couldn’t move, because the spinal cord of the head and body were not sufficiently connected, while it lived only for eight days, as the body rejected the new head.
Even though many people have showed interested in Dr. Canavero’s future head transplant, academics like Arthur Caplan, director of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Centre, don’t show the same enthusiasm towards his medical plan. According to Caplan, Canavero is “nuts”, “It’s not like you can unscrew your head and put it on someone else.”
While Dr Hunt Batjer, president elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons, added, “I would not wish this on anyone. I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death.”