135 Views

Are we really two years from full body transplants?

“While there’s life, there’s hope”. The famous quote by Stephen Hawking, adopted in The Theory of Everything which won the 87th Oscars last month, is always a source of strength for terminally-ill patients.

Now the idea of transplanting a live person’s brain to a dead body is no longer merely an imaginary scenario in horror or sci-fi movies.

Advancing medical technologies are believed to be making it a reality in two years.

Sergio Canavero, a doctor in Turin, Italy, recently published an outline demonstrating how full body transplants could be performed to prolong the lives of patients whose muscles and nerves have degenerated or whose organs are riddled with cancer.

The first successful head transplant was attempted on a monkey in 1970 at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, US. But the monkey only lived for nine days as its immune system rejected the head.

To perform the surgery, doctors would first cool the patient’s head and the donor’s body to prevent their cells from dying. The neck is cut through, the blood vessels joined with thin tubes, and the spinal cord cut with a sharp knife to minimise nerve damage. The recipient’s head is then moved on to the donor’s body.

Technical hurdles of fusing the spinal cord, reviving the reconstructed person and retraining the brain to use thousands of unfamiliar nerves and preventing the body’s immune system from rejecting the head imply that the surgery could be ready as early as 2017. 

According to the research, the patient will be able to walk within one year with the help of physical therapy after the transplant. Dr Canavero is hoping to assemble a team to assist him in a conference for neurological surgeons in Maryland, USA this June where he will perform the first human full body transplant.

While bringing good news to patients, his ideas are met with disbelief in surgeons and opposition from advocates of ethics.

Dr Andrew Chitty, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy in University of Sussex, told The Badger, “what is wrong with this procedure is that it opens up the possibility of prolonging an individual’s life indefinitely. Most of us fear death, so we might welcome this. But in fact immortality is not a good for human beings but rather an evil.

“It is certainly not a good for the human race as a whole (see for example Kurt Vonnegut’s short story ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’), and I would argue that it is not a good for any individual human being either.

Rather than developing medical technologies that hold open the prospect of living forever, we should be focusing on ones that improve the quality of our finite lives.”

Medico-moral implications are raised regarding Dr Canavero’s concept. The costliness of this surgery exposes it to exploitation by wealthy individuals. As with cases of designer babies, genetic modification and cloning, organs and bodies become commodified, and the sanctity of lives no longer respected or cherished. 

In addition, this concept would widen the gap between the rich and the poor, reinforcing the idea that money makes people immortal. Conveying this message to the younger generation will be detrimental to their ethical values. If you could extend your life indefinitely, would you still take utmost care of your health and make full use of your time?

Imagine a world where everyone cultivate bad lifestyles in the knowledge that money can solve the problem, imagine that everyone looks for money in the wrong places to buy lives which are originally priceless.

Regarding the commodification of organs, because of the high demand of organs for around 10000 medical procedures each year and low donation rates, organs of executed prisoners in China used to be collected without permission of themselves or their family. 

Body parts may be traded for profit and end up on the black market. Thanks to human rights advocates, China’s organ donation committee has forbidden these scenarios starting from January this year. 

Without appropriate regulation, it is worrying that a similar story from China’s history would be brought about by the procedure of full body transplant – where wealthy, aging individuals secure the healthy bodies of young individuals on the black market, with “unscrupulous” surgeons carrying out the head transplantation.

In response to ethical concerns raised, Dr Canavero said, “If society doesn’t want it, I won’t do it. But if people don’t want it, in the US or Europe, that doesn’t mean it won’t be done somewhere else.”

One of doctors’ roles is to benefit patients and the public – they should uphold social justice. Let’s hope that they will remember the values they have vowed in the Hippocratic Oath.

Dorothy Yim

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
505 views1
Campus News
505 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
41 views
Arts
41 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
85 views
Arts
85 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
88 views
Arts
88 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
112 views
Arts
112 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
132 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
145 views
Arts
145 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
138 views
Arts
138 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
218 views
Campus News
218 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
102 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
204 views
Arts
204 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
134 views
Arts
134 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
210 views
Artist Focus
210 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
144 views
Interview
144 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
212 views
Arts
212 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
235 views
Arts
235 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
273 views
Arts
273 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
189 views
Artist Focus
189 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
196 views
Books
196 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
250 views
Science
250 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
260 views
News
260 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…