# The science and ethics behind head transplants

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Plazma Inferno!, Mar 16, 2016.

1. ### Plazma Inferno!Ding Ding Ding DingAdministrator

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In December 2017, Italian neurosurgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero plans to perform the world's first head transplant. The head of a man or woman will be placed on the body of a brain dead donor. (If successful, it has the potential to help patients who are severely disabled around the world receive more functional bodies). The procedure, which has received international attention since Canavero announced his plans at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgeons' annual meeting in June 2015, is scheduled to take place at a still-to-be-determined hospital in China with a team of about 150 medical professionals at an estimated cost of $15 million to$20 million dollars.
However, this procedure raises many questions.
Canavero's going up against prominent academics who consider his plans improbable, insane—or both. Neuroscientists are debating the feasibility of the procedure. The majority of doctors agree that science has not yet figured out how to safely fuse a spinal cord to connect a head with a body. Bioethicists are debating the morality of the surgery (should it even be attempted?). The procedure is outlawed in Canavero’s home country of Italy, for example, because if a head-transplant patient were able to reproduce he or she would give birth to the children of the body donor.

What do you think about it?

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3. ### Beer w/StrawTranscendental Ignorance!Valued Senior Member

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Unless I am totally ignorant of something, it is totally bullshit.

I think a lot more media attention would have been given to such supposedly successful transplants with animals in the past.

5. ### zgmcRegistered Senior Member

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Seems like bs to me also. I'm sure eventually it will be done. I don't see anything wrong with it. How long could you live if you kept getting younger bodies?

7. ### Edont KnoffRegistered Senior Member

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My main concern is that the patients will likely be paralysed. We can't fix paraplegia, how does the doctor expect to connect the nerves of the spinal cord?

Once that works, I see no real ethic problems.

Well I see a problem with many tranpalnats, which require the donor to be dead enough to be called dead but alive enough that the organs are still working. At times I think the "dead enough" regulations that are applied are not what I'd call dead, in my opinion the donors are still alive in that state. But this applies to many transplantations, and is not particular to placing a head on a new body, so if the traditional organ transplants are considered ethically clear, transplanting a head should be as ethic.

As a child I had been told that the brain ages slower than the body, and transplanting a brain into a new biological or synthethic body would be the key to immortality. It seems I was told wrong. The brain ages not much slower than the body. But if we can stop the brain from aging, and find ways to grow synthetic bodies to house an immortal brain --- well, we finally have the problem of overpopulating our planet ampliefied by several orders of magnitude. But I still like the idea. Particularly if it helps severely disabled persons to get a working body again. There is nothing worse in my opinion than being able to think, but no longer able to do.

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8. ### OphioliteValued Senior Member

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It's interesting that even if you average this out over the entire population of the planet the per capita cost remains the same!

9. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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It's been done in dogs, rats and monkeys. No reason it can't be done with humans. You can't "cure" paralysis so the new head would have no control over the body, of course. But for someone whose alternative was death (i.e. a paralyzed patient with inoperable lung cancer) it would offer a way to extend their life.

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Frankenstein

11. ### BrianHarwarespecialistWe shall Ionize!iRegistered Senior Member

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Yeah how seeming strange when you shock a dead corpse it's can then move.

12. ### RandwolfIgnorance killed the catValued Senior Member

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I read something on this a few months ago - it was my impression that the intent was to reconnect the brain to the spinal cord, allowing movement. No?

Without spending a lot of time googling:
These include the video above of mice sniffing and moving their legs, apparently weeks after having the spinal cord in their necks severed and then re-fused. C-Yoon Kim, at Konkuk University School of Medicine in South Korea, who carried out the procedure, says his team have demonstrated the recovery of motor function in the forelimbs and hindlimbs of the animals. “Therefore I guess it is possible to reconnect the [spinal] cord after complete severance,” he says.
https://www.newscientist.com/articl...arried-out-on-monkey-claims-maverick-surgeon/

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13. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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Not yet, no. You can imagine that spinal cord injury patients would be a much larger market for such a procedure, and so far none have panned out.

14. ### CrcataRegistered Senior Member

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Haha yea, could you imagine how ridiculous our planet would get if something like this were achievable for even a small portion of the population?

As far as ethically goes, I see no problem with people using it to live the rest of their lives being able to move, but to extend our lives longer than we live already (for instance living 2 lifetimes) seems like it would come at to great a cost. And is something that to me seems really scary, like...I'm not sure if we have a higher power out there or not...but it "feels" like we would be fiddling with stuff that we shouldnt lol. I mean...we procreate for a reason, because we aren't immortal.

15. ### YazataValued Senior Member

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I don't see any big problem (apart from immunological rejection) with one person's body keeping another person's head alive like an organic life-support machine.

But head transplants won't ever be practical or a widely performed until more progress is made in repairing spinal-cord injuries and restoring function to conventional Christopher Reeve style quadriplegics. Head transplants mean completely severing the spinal column high up in the neck, so even if the head transplant is 'successful', the head will find itself unable to move or feel its new body.

16. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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Presumably, the donor has signed off on use of all of their body parts.

Ethically the genetics issue seems pretty minor in this day and age. New reproductive technologies have pretty much blurred traditional genetic connections between parent and child.

17. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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Well, until the brain and spinal cord create new pathways and relearn the mapping.

18. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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That doesn't happen. Spinal injuries - even of the surgical type - do not heal.

19. ### Edont KnoffRegistered Senior Member

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The brain ages too (and the head containing the brain). I'm not sure if such a life expansion is enjoyable unless you are one of the few who keep good working brains at high ages.

In that case I favor the cyborg solution. Move the brain out of the skull into a robotic/bionic body which is easier to repair/maintain than the original body. Problem again - how to connect the nerves to the body. But once there is a solution, and it seem science just made some advances in nerve-electronics coupling, this will be a very interesting scenario.

I think head transplants are only an intermediate step to the move-brain-into-cyborg solution.