Ethical issues shadow scientists' attempt to do human head transplantation

Teenager dances for joy after successful heart transplant
File photo of a teenager who was seen dancing with his hands after successful heart transplantation.

Scientists have long dreamed of transplanting human head from one body to another, just the depicted in science fiction movies. In November 2017, Sergio Canavero, an Italian scientist revealed that he had carried out the world's first human head transplant after an 18-hour-long procedure.

Canavero also claimed that the successful head transplant will herald to many more head transplants in the future. The Italian scientist also suggested that the rich business tycoons whose bodies are failing in old age can opt for head transplant to fuse their old head to the body of a healthy young man in his 20s.

Even though the chances of survival are not certain, the medical community has unanimously termed it as extremely unethical. Assuming that a person will survive after the head transplant, it will compel many rich tycoons to try out the same, and the final result will be immortality.

As of now, only matter is immortal, and all the living things get converted into one form to another and perish. If humans achieve immortality with head transplants, it will literally break rules of nature, with highly unpredictable consequences, they argue..

History of head transplant

It was in 1908 that French Organ Transplant pioneer Alexis Carrel and American physiologist Charles Claude Guthrie tried the first head transplant in the human history. The tried to fuse a canine's head to a puppy. Even though the new body demonstrated some initial reflexes, it did not last long, and it was pronounced dead in a few moments.

The major breakthrough in head transplant came in 1954 when Vladimir Demikhov, a surgeon lived in Soviet Russia joined a puppy's head into another canine. After several trials, he finally tasted some success when one puppy lived for a month.

In 1970, Robert J White succeeded in transplanting one monkey's head on the other and vice versa, and interestingly, these two monkeys were able to swallow, bite and track objects with their eyes. However, due to high doses of immunosuppressive medications injected, they faced an early demise.

In recent years, Ren Xiaoping, a Chinese orthopedic surgeon performed head transplants in mice, and most of them lived for more than six months. Xiaoping is currently considered a controversial figure in the medical community, as he has expressed his intent to perform a human head transplant.

Complications galore

The major issue for surgeons of head transplant will be the challenge of keeping the organ live throughout the procedure. Brain demands a consistent stream of blood to keep it alive, and even after transplantation, the old brain would face difficulties in adapting itself to the new body.

Once the medical experts learn to overcome this challenge, head transplant may become as common as the kidney or heart transplants now. When Joseph Murray carried out the first kidney transplantation in 1954, many critics lashed out against the surgeon claiming that it was an unethical procedure. So will be the head transplant in the future.

But the missing middle is that it may be misused by billionaires to extend their lifespan and put at risk some innocent and poor youngsters as their prey, as no donor will be alive.