Head Transplantation: Radical life-saving procedure or fate worse than death?

Have you ever dreamed of having someone else’s body? The “Head Anastomosis Venture” aims to successfully transfer a living head to a deceased donor body. Head transplantation could give an individual with an able mind and non-functioning body another chance at life or walking. It is believed that this revolutionary procedure will be a solution to spinal cord injuries, quadriplegia, cancer, and sex-reassignment surgeries. However, can an individual really adapt to a different body without significant mental impacts? Changing physical aspects of the self can drastically affect an individual’s psychological state in ways that cannot be predicted. In vital organ transplants, such as the heart, recipients tend to adjust or alter their personality to fit that of the donor. How can one cope with a physical reminder of a deceased individual every day without significant changes to their identity and sense of self? Furthermore, if this procedure is successful, many wonder if it will change the definition of life and death. The recipient will be able to reproduce with the donor’s genes and reproductive organs. With numerous ethical dilemmas at hand, it seems hard to believe that this procedure is so imminent, yet an Italian Neurosurgeon, Sergio Canavero, aims to complete it by the end of 2018. Because of the imminence of Project “HEAVEN”, society must heavily consider the ethical ramifications and benefits before allowing it to take place.

The phrase “Head Transplant” sparks images of Dr. Frankenstein, neck bolts, and comic books. These are associations Neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero, a pioneer of human head transplantation, relishes in. Dr. Canavero shocked the world in 2013 when he announced his plans to transplant a living head to a deceased donor body. The “Head Anastomosis Venture” could give an individual with an able mind and non-functioning body another chance at life. This revolutionary procedure will be a cure for fatal muscle-wasting diseases, spinal cord injuries, quadriplegia, and cancer. In 2015, there was an estimated 337,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the United States alone. Unfortunately, about 12,500 new cases emerge every year, creating a great number of people who would benefit from a procedure like head transplantation (Jr, Robert Yaniz 2017). However, is this life-saving procedure simply science fiction? It will cost millions of dollars to complete, not to mention recovery time and time out of work. If this procedure is successful, many wonder if it will change the current medical definition of life and death. The recipient will be able to reproduce with the donor’s genes and reproductive organs, bringing to light questions about the donor’s family’s rights. As for concerns about the recipient’s well-being, ethicists wonder if an individual can really adapt to a different body without significant mental impacts. Changing physical aspects of the self can drastically affect an individual’s psychological state in ways that cannot be predicted.  In vital organ transplants, such as the heart or lungs, recipients tend to adjust or alter their personality to fit that of the donor. How can one cope with a physical reminder of a deceased individual every day without significant changes to their identity and sense of self? With numerous ethical dilemmas at hand, it seems hard to believe that this procedure was set to take place so soon, but Sergio Canavero aims to complete it by the end of 2018. Because of the imminence of Project “HEAVEN” or the “Head Anastomosis Venture”, society must heavily consider the ethical ramifications and benefits before allowing it to take place. The following essay will explore the reality and ethical perplexity of Project “HEAVEN”, a quest to successfully transplant a living head onto a donor body. Putting aside the feasibility of such a radical procedure, head transplantation should not be allowed to take place due to the new person that will emerge from it and the changes to the definition of life and death that will have to take place. Although it could provide a cure for many people who are unable to walk or are suffering from a fatal illness, the risks and the changes to identity and one’s mental state outweigh any possible benefits.

Before delving into the ethics of head transplantation, one must understand the long and complicated history of head transplantation. In 1962, Dr. Robert White attempted to find out if the brain could survive outside of the body. He removed a monkey’s brain from the body and monitored it on an EKG machine. When pumped with blood, it seemed to be remain conscious for twelve hours. This procedure simply wasn’t enough to satisfy the curiosity of Dr. White, so he set out to transplant a monkey head onto a different monkey’s body. In 1970, he was able to successfully complete his head transplant. After the procedure, the monkey was conscious and responded to external stimuli. However, Dr. White did not attempt to fuse the spinal cords, as it was much too complicated of an endeavour for his technology and equipment. The monkey died eight days later when the body rejected the head (Eengelhaupt 2015). Dr. Xiaoping Ren, a member of Sergio Canavero’s transplant team, has also claimed to have successful completed the procedure. The monkey he performed on survived without neurological damage of any kind. However, Dr. Ren did not attempt to reconnect the spinal cords either, as his goal of the experiment was to figure out how to keep blood flowing to the brain. Consequently, the quadriplegic monkey was euthanized after 20 hours for ethical reasons. Doctor Xiaoping Ren has also conducted head transplants on over 1,000 mice. After the procedure, these mice were able to drink, breathe, move, look around, yet only lived for a few minutes. Responding to concern over spinal cord reparations, Dr. Ren claims to have successful repaired mice spines using Canavero’s methods. Eight out of nine were alive a month after. These eight were also able to walk after day 28, and two had been classified as “basically normal” (Hooton 2015). Head transplantation has been in the works for over fifty years, evolving with science, new discoveries and new technologies. It’s important to consider this history when looking at the ethics of head transplantation because society needs to consider the evolution of medicine. When heart transplantation was first introduced, that as well was a controversial topic. However, now, in 2018, heart transplantation is widely accepted. The medical community must take into consideration that head transplants may be the next logical step in medical evolution.

While it has not yet been performed on a living human, Sergio Canavero has outlined a precise procedure that would result in successful transplantation of a human head. The procedure will begin as soon as news of a matched donor arrives. This brain dead individual will be taken to an operating room and placed in an upright position in preparation for decapitation. At the same time, the recipient will be anesthetized and pumped with 50 degree fahrenheit fluids. These fluids will be pumped through the recipient’s veins with the intent of delaying brain tissue death. The recipient’s head will then be severed directly above the thyroid gland. To make reattachment easier, the muscles will be color-coded as well. A diamond blade will neatly sever both the recipient’s and donor’s spinal cords. The blood vessels of the recipient are then hooked up by small tubes to ensure that blood remains flowing to the brain. The recipient’s head will be transferred across the operating room on a crane customized specifically for this procedure. PEG (polyethylene glycol) will connect the two detached spinal cord cells. An electrical paddle will also be implanted near the site where the spinal cords fused. This paddle will facilitate communication from the spinal cord. Finally, all nerves, muscles, and blood vessels will be connected and stitched up. The patient would exit the procedure in a medically induced coma with machines breathing for them and pumping their blood. This coma would last until the patient shows signs of voluntary movement. Once movement is shown, the drugs used to keep the patient incapacitated will subside and the patient will awaken naturally. This exact procedure is designed to have an optimal result, however, there are issues with this procedure. For example, polyethylene glycol is toxic to humans. This gel is the ideal method of attachment because it encourages the two spinal cords to truly fuse and meld together. Furthermore, using a sharp blade is critical as both ends of the spinal cord must be precisely cut to ensure a successful connection. However, many individuals who suffer from a spinal cord injury have frayed cord endings because their injuries are so traumatic. This would mean that head transplants would not work for many quadriplegics, an ideal candidate (Jacobson 2018). This brings to light the ethical value of safety as such a carefully thought out procedure is riddled with flaws. This is the procedure that is being practiced on cadavers and animals, so we must wonder if this is the exact procedure Sergio Canavero intends to perform on a living person. If so, the safety of this individual would be called into question as a toxic substance is entering their body. While outlining a feasible procedure is a step in the right direction for head transplantation, ethical dilemmas arise over flaws and medical barriers.

If successful, head transplantation could be a world altering cure for many devastating diseases and ailments. Head transplants could be used to provide a cure for spinal cord injuries, cancer, muscle-wasting diseases, quadriplegia, and gender reassignment. Although, as stated before, many quadriplegic or paraplegic individuals may not be suited for head transplantation due to frayed cord endings. Most of these diseases and injuries have no definite cure, which can leave the patient with a feeling of hopelessness. However, it could also provide a solution to more cosmetic surgeries such as extreme weight loss. While this could be an alternative to crazy diets, opening up this procedure to non-lifesaving needs may create a slippery slope. Sergio Canavero, lead surgeon, even suggests head transplantation could be used for purely cosmetic reasons. Perhaps in the distant future, people who wanted to have a certain physical feature would undergo head transplantation to achieve this look which would be neither safe nor just. This could produce a gap in equality and who needs versus who can pay for this procedure. This directly violates the ethical values of equality and safety. Although every surgery is somewhat dangerous due to things such as human error or possible complications, individuals who undergo a head transplant will also have a grueling mental and physical struggle before them. These individuals would have an exhausting and painful road ahead of them, both mentally and physically, so it should not be a procedure so eagerly performed.

“Transplantation is a complicated, time-consuming, and physically and emotionally draining process for organ recipients and their kin,” states the article, “Organ Transplantation as a Transformative Experience.” Transplanting hearts, livers, kidneys, and other organs is a draining experience for an individual. They need to cope with many changes such as taking immunosuppressants, or a change in quality of life. “Organ Transplantation as a Transformative Experience” also states:

“Following a successful transplant, the organ recipient must make a host of adjustments. Among the most profound is coping with the nature of the new gift. In Indianapolis, great efforts are made by transplant specialists- such as social workers, transplant coordinators, a procurement staff- to prevent recipients from experiencing any form of psychological identification with their donors or donor’s kin.”

Head transplants take this experience even further with rehab and greater identity changes. Identity struggles over identification with the donor also emerge, as they are gaining a vital organ from another human being. They experience more psychological consequences due to physical changes and a longer healing time. We must consider if it is ethical to subject an individual to this mentally and physically very painful procedure, and if a person is ready for these significant changes.

Patients will receive virtual reality preparation prior to the surgery to help them adjust to life after head transplantation. This virtual reality will give them a glimpse of a new body or perhaps even something as seemingly small as being taller. Canavero has teamed up a Chicago-based company called Inventum Bioengineering Technologies in an attempt to create this virtual reality system. “This virtual reality system prepares the patient in the best possible way for a new world that he will be facing with his new body,” Canavero states, “A world in which he will be able to walk again.” Canavero has also said during a press release, ““As a computer scientist I am extremely certain that [Virtual Reality] is an essential technology for the Heaven [Head anastomosis venture] project.” After seeing themselves with a different body many times prior to the surgery, the hopes of Canavero are that the psychological impact of existing in a different body will not be as great.

Head transplantation can be compared to face and hand transplantation, as they are all transplants that are visible to the recipient and have the ability to do more harm than good. Accepting a new hand or arm from a deceased individual can be a great internal struggle for many. While some people feel extreme gratitude for their new limb, others are uncomfortable with the thought of having someone else’s hand/arm. Unlike a donated organ, a hand is always visible as a constant reminder of the deceased donor. One must also think about the social response. Many amputees struggle with being “different” their whole life and suffer in social situations as a result. While one would hope a hand transplant would be a relief or help the individual gain a sense of normalcy, many worry about still being perceived as “different” or even “weird”. A medical issue to worry about is adherence to medication. There are many adverse psychological side effects of immunosuppressants such as depression, anxiety, moodiness, psychotic episodes, insomnia in addition to many dangerous neurological side effects. Non-adherence to medication is an issue for 30%-50% of other organ transplant patients. Many others experience anxiety related to another drastic bodily change. Finally, rehabilitation is a huge struggle for hand transplant patients. It’s demoralizing and exhausting to perform basic actions every day and to see such slow results. To regain full use of the hand after a transplant, rehab is grueling. While rehabilitating the nerves in the hand to regain full use is extremely difficult, the rehabilitation needed for an head transplantee to walk again would require much more work with numerous nerves in addition to the hands. When trying to determine the best exercises or stretches for head transplant recipients to practice in order to walk again, we can look at stroke patients. Many victims of strokes need persistent exercising and rehabilitation to regain usage of many muscles. Patients engage in foot and leg muscle exercises to retrain their brain. Other useful exercises work on balance and core. Practicing using your muscles helps activate neuroplasticity,  “the mechanism that your brain uses to rewire itself and learn new skills” Repeating exercises helps the connections to the brain grow stronger (How 2018). Clint Hallam, the first person to receive a hand transplant, in 1998, discovered the struggle that comes with transplantation. Although Hallam scrounged the globe for eight years to find a surgeon willing to perform a hand transplant, he eventually amputated his donor hand. Hallam had poor attendance to doctor’s appointments and physical therapy, and a poor adherence to his immunosuppressants, all of which contributed to the dismal state of his transplanted hand. Although the hand had functioned relatively well during the first year, the arm had soon become infected and swollen. Layers of his skin came off while the immunosuppressant drugs also took their toll. These drugs were extremely necessary due to his body’s rejection of the foreign tissue, however, they caused diarrhea, abdominal pains, heartburn and headaches. Finally, Hallam, his family, and a team of surgeons concluded that his quality of life had significantly decreased due to his hand transplantation, so a team of surgeons successfully amputated his transplanted hand. In a different case, in 1999, two simultaneous hand transplants took place in China. After the recipients awoke, they were “horrified” by their new hands. They were very unwilling to accept these hands as their own and even avoided looking at them. However, after they began to achieve motion in their hands, the patients began to accept the new hands. They finally thought of them as their own after about 4-5 months when sensation was regained. The sensation will not be regained easily or quickly with head transplantation. Intense rehab will be required to even move the foreign body. This would increase the discomfort of the recipient as they may feel trapped in a body not yet their own. The physical reminders of the donor present in hand, face, and head transplantation may have a significant mental impact on the recipient.

The physical reminder of the donor every day is difficult to grapple with. In the case of face transplantation, a similar problem arises. “This is because a facial allograft transplantation is externally visible and implicates continuation of the deceased person in a way that internal organs do not. The first-person experiences of recipients taking on a part of the donor’s identity will be even stronger in the case of facial allograft transplantation.” (Facial 2001) Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing a different face then the one you were born with. This is bound psychologically impact an individual. Differences arise between face/hand transplants and head transplants when referring to reversibility. As previously mentioned, hand transplants are reversible. In fact, many times they are amputated following the surgery. Additionally, a French man, Jerome Hamon, recently made headlines as, “the man with three faces”. A victim of a genetic disorder that caused tumors to grow on his face, Hamon received his first face transplant in 2010. However, five years later Hamon caught a cold that required antibiotics to treat. These antibiotics clashed with his immunosuppressants causing his body to reject the face. To save his life, doctors had to remove his face and keep him in the ICU until another face became available to him. While he could not survive day-to-day life without a face, he was able to have his transplanted face removed and receive another face. He was able to survive for months without a face, however, if a head transplant recipient was to require a third body, they would not be able to survive a day without a body. In both hand and face transplants, there are significant psychological and possibly physical consequences.

These patients are left with no other choice when they turn to head transplantation. Some are dying or can’t remember ever walking. In these scenarios, head transplants may seem like their only hope. In these cases, it’s hard to know if they are competent and sure in their decision or simply desperate for any cure. To help ease this uncertainty in current transplants, the patient awaiting an organ transplant must undergo extensive psychological testing. This is “used to assess whether or not a patient can cope with waiting for a transplant and make appropriate psychological and social readjustments.” (Organ Transplantation Transformative 1995) Psychologists screen prospective hand and face transplantees for months before surgery to minimize psychological trauma. They question individuals to gain a sense of if this procedure is the best option for them and to see if they will be able to handle the mental consequences of such a surgery. We must assume that the screening for head transplant will be much more intense due to the severe possible psychological consequences of a head transplant.

Many athletes who become paralyzed feel like completely different people after. This may be because of “muscle memory”. Many memories for athletes or musicians are in both the mind and the hand or legs. In athletes, muscle memory enables them their brain and body to work together with precise timing. A new body would destroy the timing built up by years of practice. Studies show that memories may even vanish as a result of the head transplant. This would greatly impact an individual’s sense of self. Many of these memories of playing a sport or perfecting a musical piece may work to shape core values such as dedication, determination or hardwork. A head transplantation would destroy the precise timing built up for years between the brain and the body, damaging an individual’s sense of self.

Besides the many psychological consequences to the recipient of head transplantation, such a procedure would have an impact on the definition of life and the definition of death. In performing the surgery, the recipient would be killed. By cooling the brain down to 50 degrees celsius, the individual will be legally brain dead. They would then be brought back to life, in their new body, once the transplant is completed. The definition of death is currently, according to the Uniform Definition of Death Act, “An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem is dead.” Normally, when an individual is declared brain dead, they fall under this classification of “irreversible cessation”. However, a recipient of head transplantation would be both declared brain dead, and revived, showing that it was not an “irreversible cessation”. There must be an amendment to the current definition of brain death which does not allow for this revival. Sergio Canavero states that if the procedure is successful, they will uncover mysteries surrounding death and what happens after death. This is because the recipient will spend a significant time in a state of brain death. However, this would have large implications to religion, medicine, and our culture. Many religions, such as Catholicism, are focused upon the idea of heaven, or an afterlife. If the recipient were to emerge from a head transplant with no experience of an afterlife, many religions may be discredited. Furthermore, our society currently has a certain mindset when it comes to death and coming to terms with a loved one’s passing. Changing the definition of death may have an impact on cultural beliefs and conceptions about life. This impacts religion, and the general public. Everyone is impacted when the definition of what is considered “dead” is changed. This impacts the public because it may change the value of human life. Life and death are currently believed to be very precarious, and life is precious. However, once we can bring people back from the dead, this valuability may change, as death may no longer be certain. As technology advances, as must our mindsets and beliefs.

In 1967, South African doctor, Dr. Christaan Barnard, turned heads and received world-wide criticism when he transplanted the first human heart into a living human body. The legal definition of death, at that point, was only when the heart stopped beating. The ad hoc committee at Harvard Medical School published their definition of an irreversible coma in 1968, a year after Dr. Barnard performed his surgery. So when Denise Darvall suffered from a car accident and was being sustained on a ventilator with significant brain damage,  Dr. Bannard pulled the plug without her family’s consent. The transplantee, Louis Washkansky, lived for only 18 days before dying of a chest infection. Both of these issues resulted in heavy backlash. Many felt that Denise Darvall was wrongly murdered. Although this ethical dilemma will not be a problem for head transplantation, as we have developed a definition for brain death, we must consider the lifespan of the transplantee. Although Washkansky shockingly survived the surgery, he died days after. In the year 1968, there were one hundred heart transplants, but just 18 in 1970. This was due to the low survival rate of each transplantee. The ethical value of compassion limits us from head transplantation as we wonder what the survival rate of the first patient will be. However, the heart transplant had a dismal survival rate in 1970, yet today, heart transplants boast a 85%-90% a year after surgery and 75% after three years, showing great progress with practice and advancements in technology. We also have the vital technology of immunosuppressants, a medicine that took many years after 1967 to understand.

If the transplantee were to reproduce after surgery, they would be using someone else’s sperm/egg. A huge ethical question is whether or not the donor consented to bringing a child into the world. Although the body has been donated to another and is essentially theirs now, the child will still have the donor’s DNA. This also calls to attention to the rights of the donor family. Many argue that the donor family must have visitation rights to the child as their niece/nephew, grandchild, or half sibling. However, when using donated eggs and sperm, the relatives of the offspring do not have automatic rights to the child. If the child wishes to come in contact with family, they may, however, the family can not directly contact the child. Donor families may become involved in other ways as well. “Facial allograft transplantation, personal identity and subjectivity” states:

“Sharp found that relatives often think that their loved one can “live on” in another body and that the recipient is an extension of the donor’s biography. This finding relates closely to a view of identity in which the donor is not just giving the recipient a body part, he is also giving the recipient part of his identity. Sharp argues, “In the realm of transplantation, selfhood is similarly and intensely corporeal””

This shows that the person who exits a head transplant may not be fully the recipient. In organ transplants, it may be held that the donor “lives on”. This may have greater implications in head transplantation as a loved one’s body may be visible. A donor family may long for one more hug or hand-hold from their loved one and seek out the recipient. However, great lengths are taken to ensure that a recipient does not take on a donor’s identity. Meeting your new body’s families and kin may cause a deterioration in identity to the recipient. Donor families can complicate the ethical dilemmas surrounding head transplantation once they become involved with a recipient’s life.

Since the body has such a great impact on the body and sense of self, organ transplantations have a strong impact on identity.

“[Lesley] Sharp found that most [organ] recipients she interviewed expressed a sense of having been reborn. She also found that recipients often feel that they have acquired the donor’s emotional, moral or physical characteristics. Interestly, the symbolic weight of the organ had a profound effect on the transformation of identity. For example, heart recipients experienced a greater transformation of identity than kidney recipients.” – (Swindell 2001)

There is a possibility that a recipient may try to emulate their donor, therefore losing their personal identity. If the heart has a greater significance on identity than the kidney, one could only imagine what kind of effect the body transplant would have on identity.

Dictionary.com defines “personhood” as, “the state or fact of being a person,” and “the state or fact of being an individual or having human characteristics and feelings.” Head transplantation would have a great impact to personhood. It would cause significant changes to a person’s physical as well as mental state. Their sense of self and characteristics they hold dear may be altered.

The body may have a hard-wired internal image of what the body should look and feel like. This image resists radical change. Amputees sometimes experience phantom limbs. Many of these phantom limbs cause amputees real excruciating pain. An article from The Atlantic wrote that:

“Other evidence suggests that our physical self isn’t so plastic. Many amputees experience phantom limbs, the ghostly presence of a lost arm or leg. People can also experience phantom teeth, breasts, uteruses, penises, and colons (complete with phantom flatulence). This implies that the brain has a hardwired internal representation of the body- a mental scaffold that resists radical change. More disturbing, phantom limbs often produce real pain- cramps, stinging, an unquenchable bruning. Canavero, a specialist in neurological pain, feels confident that he can alleviate such problems, but if Sprindinov wakes up from the surgery, he could very well experience an agonizing, full-body phantom.”

This creates ethical dilemmas as it shows a conflict of both personhood and safety. The possibility that an individual will awaken from a head transplant with a full-body phantom can create many issues as there is no certain cure and no way to reverse a procedure. It is horrifying to think of a person trapped inside a body that is not theirs while in excruciating pain. We must question if it is ethical to perform a head transplant without fully knowing the consequences of what someone may experience. Furthermore, the existence of phantom limbs emphasizes the issue of identity. Many people feel their lost body part after it is amputated, showing that deep connection between the brain and the body. This adds to the ongoing debate of “What makes me me”. It is a common belief that a person is their brain, thoughts, and memories.

“The psychological account of personal identity holds that what makes me me is my psychological make-up or my “mind”- that is I am essentially my memories, beliefs, desires and so on. On the psychological view, once my psychological life ceases to exist, so do I. My body and my organs remain, as do my house, my car and my cat. These are all things that I used to own and they will be handled in accordance with my wishes when I cease to exist.” – (Swindell 2001)

However, it has been proven that the body impacts these factors. As previously mentioned, phantom limbs impact an individual who suffered a amputation. Additionally, psychological consequences of head transplants may affect the brain and therefore identity. In regards to head transplantation, this shows that a change in the body may result in a change in sense of self. The following quote explains this connection as:

“If the body were just a machine for the mind, then when one loses a limb one would just go on operating the machine without that part. But this does not happen; the person who loses a limb still feels the limb and still attempts to use the limb, even though it is there no longer. Merleau-Ponty further describes the idea of the lived body by pointing out that (in normal experience) it is not the “I” observe or move my body; I am my body.”  (Swindell 2001)

This source is countering with the argument that a person is truly their mind and brain. The physical qualities are solely body parts and don’t matter. While when a person’s soul ceases to exist the person is dead, as previously mentioned, the body does have some connection to the mind. Regarding phantom limbs, physical aspects of the body do change things in the mind and brain.

When taking into account the numerous ethical dilemmas, the values of empathy and compassion arise. Putting a person through drastic physical as well as mental changes can be very traumatic. Society must feel empathy for the individual who may suffer from changes to identity. Furthermore, the two values would emerge in the case of the patient not surviving the surgery. While some may argue that the pain and suffering an individual feels prior to the surgery is reason enough to try, the possible pain after the surgery is unknown. An individual can suffer even more or want the surgery reversed. Unfortunately, dissimilarly from the hand transplant, this cannot be reversed. If the patient were to wish to die instead of living in this altered state, numerous more ethical dilemmas and concerns would arise regarding assisted suicide.

The sci-fi fantasy that is head transplantation is quickly becoming a reality. There has been a large amount of testing and experimentation done by Dr. Xiaoping Ren and past scientists and doctors. The latest news has been of a successful head transplantation done on cadavers with approaching plans to complete a full head swap on two brain dead patients. As a society, we must strongly consider all the negative ethical implications of head transplantation, such as changes to the definition of death, the ethical value of personhood, and of course, the mental and physical safety of the participant. Since the transplant would be defying our current definition of death, medical and cultural definitions of death would need to be changed. Changing the definition of death shifts our view of the world and the current perception of life. This would cause further religious implications as well as societal implications. Additionally, the recipient of the head transplant would undergo a major change in sense of self and identity calling into question the value of personhood. It is an ongoing question of whether you are more your body or more your brain. Research has shown that making drastic changes to the physical self has an effect on an individual’s mental state, personality, and sense of self. Lastly, the mental and physical health of the recipient is at risk. As previously stated, the mental state, and therefore safety, would be altered in addition to the physical state. Although this paper is primarily focused on the ethics of this surgery, not the medicine and science behind it, it is important to remember that there are great physical risks associated with this surgery that may even be fatal. If this procedure were to become a reality, it would be important that there were the same regulations across the world for allowing this procedure to occur. This procedure is currently set to take place in China because Europe and America won’t allow it. This is a very interesting dilemma because it brings to light the rights of countries and continents to make their own laws regarding medicine. However, it would be preferable for all nations to have one set of laws that regulate the same things. Stakeholders in this case are the general public because such a monumental advancement in medicine affects everyone. Performing a head transplant would affect the identity of the recipient, as well as the definition of death for society. I would argue that due to the numerous ethical dilemmas, head transplantation is unethical. There are too many risks associated while the benefits are not guaranteed. In conclusion, while head transplantation could be useful in providing cures for muscle-wasting diseases and spinal cord injuries, the procedure is unethical and should not be allowed to occur in China, or anywhere else in the world.

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