The transplant volunteer who could use a better head on his shoulders

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Recently we told the bizarre story of some doctors who believe technology and medicine have advanced to the point where a successful human head transplant could be performed in as little as two years from now, even though the track record for animal head transplants has been dismal.

Such a ground-breaking and ethically questionable surgery could only be performed, however, on a willing volunteer. Otherwise, it would be tantamount to murder because, in case there are any lingering doubts, we are as close to having people survive head transplants as we are to building sustainable colonies on Mars. Neither is going to happen for a Very. Long. Time.

Amazingly, the scientists have their volunteer. He's 30-year-old Valery Spiridonov of Russia. According to The Independent:

A Werdnig-Hoffmann disease sufferer with rapidly declining health, Spiridonov is willing to take a punt on this very experimental surgery and you can't really blame him, but while he is prepared for the possibility that the body will reject his head and he will die, his fate could be considerably worse than death.

"I would not wish this on anyone," said Dr Hunt Batjer, president elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons. "I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death."

Also known as spinal muscular atrophy, Werdnig-Hoffman disease has no cure and results over time in exactly what the name implies: The slow deterioration of the muscles and mobility. Clearly Spiridonov believes that is worse than death.

Still, we just don't see how this is going to end well.

Here's a video of the guy who wants to do the transplant, Dr. Sergio Carnavero, giving a TED talk on the procedure. We watched it and agree with Arthur Caplan, director of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Centre, who is quoted by The Independent: Canavero is "nuts." 

This story, "The transplant volunteer who could use a better head on his shoulders" was originally published by Fritterati.

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