Imagine if you’d been told your only chance at living involved severing your head off and transplanting it on to a new body.
Aside from the fact that is sounds like a story plot inspired from the 90’s sci-fi movie Face Off, could you do it?
One Russian man has volunteered to do so, and to quote the famous star trek line, “He is boldly going where no man (or woman) has ever gone before.”
Valery Spiridonov is a 30-year-old computer scientist who suffers from Werding-Hoffman disease, a terminal condition that destroys muscle.
Spiridonov, who lives 120 miles east of Moscow, has been struggling with this disease since birth.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, he said his condition gets worse each year. He has lost control of his body, only has one leg and is confined to a wheelchair, but he is fortunate in that he has lived to age 30--- most Werding-Hoffman sufferers don’t live past 20.
Instead of waiting to die, Spiridonov wants a chance at life. He is willing to take the risk of being the first person in the world to undergo this kind of surgery, and he says it’s going to happen within two years.
The surgeon performing the procedure will be Dr. Sergio Canavero, a man whose drawn criticism over stating that the medical community already has all of the techniques needed to transplant a human head on a host body.
(See his video discussing the procedure below)
Spiridonov reached out to Canavero after coming across the doctor’s controversial claims and the two have been talking about the possibility of a surgery for the past two years.
The Italian surgeon and future patient have not yet met in person; they’ve only communicated online through Skype.
Canavero has named the procedure HEAVEN, an acronym for head anastomosis venture. He said the surgery would need to take place in America or China.
The cost? $5.7 million.
While this has never been done on a human, a head transplant procedure was actually performed on a monkey 45 years ago by Dr. Robert White. It was also done on a mouse in China last year.
However, critics are comparing him to a modern day Dr. Frankenstein, saying he’s oversimplifying a process that is extremely complicated and risky.
The Director of Medical Ethics at the New York University’s Medical Centre, Arthur Caplan, called Canavero, “nuts”.
In an interview with CNN, President Elect of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons Dr. Hunt Batjer said, “I would not wish this on anyone. I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are worse things than death.”
But the naysayers can’t change Spiridonov’s mind.
He said that while he is a bit scared, he believes science is developed by those who take risks. He desperately wants the technique to work because the only other option is a slow, uncomfortable death.
The new body for Spiridonov’s head would come from a normal donor considered brain dead.
The heads of the donor and Spirdonov would be severed at the same time, and Spiridonov’s head would be attached to the donor’s body using a glue-like substance called polyethylene glycol, used to fuse the ends of the spinal cord together.
The muscles and blood supply would be stitched together, and then Spiridonov would be placed under a four-week coma to allow the head and the body to heal without movement.
The surgery date isn’t set yet, as Canavero must best be satisfied that “the medical science is sufficiently advanced.”
Spiridonov said the tentative time period discussed between himself and the surgeon is 2016.
Spiridonov is reaching out to Russian President Vladimir Putin along with others to help fund a trip to America to meet his doctor.
Canavero also has not yet raised enough funds for the 150 member team of doctors and nurses he anticipates will be needed for the surgery.
He is seeking funding and is scheduled to speak to the American Academy of Neurological and Orthaepedic Surgeons’ conference in June.
For more on the first human head transplant story, visit the links below: