After a lot of preparations for the world’s first human head transplant surgery to be done this month, it seemed to be undergoing some delays after the head donor announced that he no longer wants to take part in that surgery. Hopes started to fade for that surgery especially after facing some troubles with the government.
According to USA Today, Sergio Canavero – the Italian neurosurgeon responsible for the surgery – has expressed the unwillingness of the governments of the USA and Europe to support such a controversial operation or to even host it on their lands. Although a similar operation has been successfully performed by Canavero on a dead body, Canavero confirms that no American medical institute or center is willing to support that operation.
That is not the case in China on the other hand, as the government of China has welcomed Canavero to have the operation done on their land after a Chinese anonymous donor and recipient were found. The exact date of the surgery is yet to be decided, but it is expected to be in the first quarter of 2018.
Since the announcement of the operation, it has become a very controversial topic, especially that a lot of doctors and professors worldwide don’t believe such an operation is even possible. A lot of experts claim that the success of a head transplant on a dead body or on a monkey that stayed alive for only 20 hours after the operation doesn’t really define success. Some even question the ethical standards of Canavero.
“We don’t have enough data with animal models, sufficient published and peer-reviewed results, and particularly data about morbidity and mortality on the animals that have had the procedure,” said Assya Pascalev, a biomedical ethicist at Howard University. “The first heart transplant, hand transplant and facial transplant were all met with serious reservations, and China does not have the same ethical standards and requirements that the United States and Europe have.”
According to Canavero, the operation will take 36 hours, $100M and about 30 professional surgeons and specialists, but will all of this be enough? Will it be the beginning of a new era in the medical field, or will it be a failure that the medical history will never forget?
All we can do now is wait for the announcement of the exact date of the operation and hope for it to end well.