The world’s first human head transplant has been successfully carried out on a corpse in China, as claimed by Italian professor Sergio Canavero at a press conference in Vienna, Austria on Friday. During an 18-hour operation, experts demonstrated that it is possible to successfully reconnect the spine, nerves and blood vessels of a severed head.
Dr. Sergio Canavero, dubbed “Dr. Frankenstein,” made headlines last year when he announced his plans to perform the first human head transplant. Now the controversial neurosurgeon is back with claims that the world’s first head transplant is “imminent,” after he successfully carried out the first head transplant on a human corpse, with a team of surgeons at Harbin Medical University in China.
The operation was led by Dr. Xiaoping Ren, a surgeon who has previously transplanted the head of a monkey and numerous rodents. While no evidence was provided to back the transplant, Dr. Canavero said that details of the surgery would be released within few days by a surgical journal. Harbin Medical University is expected to write a full report on the operation within the next few days.
“The first human transplant on human cadavers has been done. Everyone said it was impossible, but the surgery was successful,” Canavero said in a video of the press conference that he posted to Facebook.
Canavero team’s next imminent step would be to perform the head transplant on a living human paralyzed from the neck down.
“A full head swap between brain-dead organ donors is the next stage. And that is the final step for the formal head transplant for a medical condition which is imminent. It will be for a medical, neurological condition, not for life-extension,” Canavero said.
However, Canavero’s work has been widely met with criticism in the medical community, who have condemned the experiment as disturbing. Not everyone in the medical community is convinced that Dr. Canavero could actually ever achieve a successful head transplant. They claimed that while the surgery is both unethical and dangerous, it could also cause ghastly problems for the people who undergo it and it could cause danger to society in general.
Scientists have warned that the first patient could undergo something “a lot worse than death”, for instance, the patient would undergo horrific suffering as he gets adjusted to a new body.
Dr. Jan Schnupp, professor of neuroscience at the University of Oxford said, “I find it inconceivable that ethics committees in any reputable research or clinical institutions would give a green light to living human head transplants in the foreseeable future. Indeed, attempting such a thing given the current state of the art would be nothing short of criminal. As a neuroscientist, I would really quite like the general public to be reassured that neither I nor any of my colleagues think that beheading people for extremely long shot experiments is acceptable. It is not.”
Dr. James Fildes, from the University of Manchester, said the project is “morally wrong” if the surgeons cannot first provide proof that it improves the life of a large animal.
Professor Catherina Becker, from the University of Edinburgh, says, “Actual success of a head transplant must be measured by long-term survival of head and body with the head controlling motor function. This can obviously not be assessed in a corpse and for all we know, would also not occur in a living human.”