By Caroline Song
Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero claims that he will be able to perform a human head transplant as soon as 2017. Two major hurdles to such a surgery still exist: an inability to successfully fuse together disparate spinal cords and the body’s sometimes negative immunological response to transplanted organs. Canavero believes that these obstacles will be overcome in the near future.
Canavero first proposed the idea in 2013, as a possible means of assisting those who suffer severe muscle and/or nerve degeneration from injuries or illness. The new body would have to be donated by a brain dead individual. Following the procedure, the patient would have to remain in a coma for several weeks to allow new nerve connections to take hold between the patient’s head and the donor body.
Canavero hopes to be able to conduct experimental trials in the United States, but believes that it might be easier to gain approval for his project in Europe.
“I think we are at a point when the technical aspects are all feasible,” Canavero said. “The real stumbling block is the ethics… Should this surgery be done at all? There are obviously going to be many people who disagree with it.”
This is the reason Canavero has opted to release the details of his experimental procedure now, two years before he will attempt it. He wants to encourage debate among philosophers, politicians, and the people.