Coming Soon: Full-Body Transplants, But Is Your Soul Included?

21stcenturywire

Medical science continues to push the envelope of advancement, and is currently taking some startling new turns…


Dr. Sergio Canavero has given a TED Talk on why such a procedure could soon be possible due to advancements in spinal cord medicine.
Among other things, this latest advancement comes under the controversial banner of transhumanism – the idea that human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities can be radically advanced by science.

According to Dr. Sergio Canavero, based in Turin, Italy, his “full-body transplant” aka a ‘new body for an old head’, will be available within 2 years, and he already has an extensive waiting list of individuals willing to undertake this radical procedure.

Aside from the practical ethical concerns with a procedure like this, there’s also the scientific argument that replacing one’s whole body below the neck will mean a tremendous loss of intangibles like muscle memory. More importantly however, there is the issue of emotional memory and consciousness – much of which is believed to be stored in the body as well as in the brain. By taking on a stranger’s body, one might also be adopting their intangible attributes and even pain centres located in cellular memory clusters throughout the body. Based on these findings, the potential for psychological disorders might be an area of great concern for both doctor and patient.

Medical ethicist Dr Aurthur Caplan from New York University’s Langone Medical Center sees this procedure as having some very serious consequences. He commented on Fox News today, explaining, “The fact is that heads are not simply brains in a container. If you re-wire that out to a new body, it’s going to change your personality, change how you think, change the chemistry of your brain – it’s not going to be you anymore.”

Although Canevero claims this surgery will be ready soon, the reality may be much more complex than he claims. For decades, scientists have attempted this ‘Frankenstein’ procedure with lab animals and with no real success. As it stands, Canevero’s procedure would require subject to remain in a medically induced coma for at least four weeks, and then once awakened, they could take up to, or more than one year before they would acquire the ability to move limbs, and achieve basic neurological response exercises and be able to gauge basic physical and bio-feedback results. Even then, there is no guarantee that the head and the body will be compatible. Many subjects will not even be able to last through both the comatose and rehabilitation phases, meaning that their could be a high rate of attrition involved. What is much more likely, however, is that advances in cybernetics and stem cell regeneration would be required in order to make this complicated process of a body transplant more successful – and that brings us right back to transhumanism.

It’s possible that religious arguments pertaining to this medical experiment could centre around the concept of the ‘soul’, which many different faiths and cultures believe is not exclusive to the head, or the brain, and that a body transplant would mean shedding most of what makes an individual unique and special – the accumulation of physical and emotional experiences taking place throughout one’s body over the full course of one’s life.

If she were still alive, we wonder what would Mary Shelley be saying right about now…?

1-Transhumanism

First full body transplant is two years away, surgeon claims


Ian Sample
Guardian

A surgeon says full-body transplants could become a reality in just two years.

Sergio Canavero, a doctor in Turin, Italy, has drawn up plans to graft a living person’s head on to a donor body and claims the procedures needed to carry out the operation are not far off.
Canavero hopes to assemble a team to explore the radical surgery in a project he is due to launch at a meeting for neurological surgeons in Maryland this June.
He has claimed for years that medical science has advanced to the point that a full body transplant is plausible, but the proposal has caused raised eyebrows, horror and profound disbelief in other surgeons.
The Italian doctor, who recently published a broad outline of how the surgery could be performed, told New Scientist magazine that he wanted to use body transplants to prolong the lives of people affected by terminal diseases.
“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,” he said. “I’m trying to go about this the right way, but before going to the moon, you want to make sure people will follow you.”
Putting aside the considerable technical issues involved in removing a living person’s head, grafting it to a dead body, reviving the reconstructed person and retraining their brain to use thousands of unfamiliar spinal cord nerves, the ethics are problematic.The history of transplantation is full of cases where people hated their new appendages and had them removed. The psychological burden of emerging from anaesthetic with an entirely new body is firmly in uncharted territory. Another hitch is that medical ethics boards would almost certainly not approve experiments in primates to test whether the procedure works…

Continue this story at The Guardian

Popular Posts