Well, I just came across an article about an Italian neuroscientist named Dr. Sergio Canavero who claims we now have the technology to do human head transplants.
To be more accurate, I didn’t exactly come across this article; my wife Barbara forwarded it to me. I’ve been doing this blog for over two years and this is the first time Barb has ever sent me an article about something she deemed ridiculous enough to be post-worthy. At least, I’m assuming that’s why she sent me the article, and not as a hint that she would like me to undergo the procedure. (Would it be because she can’t stand looking at my body anymore, or because she’s tired of the way I think?)
According to the article:
“Dr. Canavero wrote in his paper that a clean-cut must be performed to disconnect and reconnect the donor’s head at the spine. Then, special adhesives — such as polyethylene glycol (PEG) — would be used to fuse the donor’s head and spine to the recipient.”
If I’m reading that correctly, Dr. Canavero’s big breakthough is literally gluing the two pieces together. And here he is, providing the full instructions online so that anybody with a machete and some polyethylene glycol can go around switching heads on people. We really have to stop allowing folks to post directions for activities like making bombs and doing head transplants. It could be dangerous.
Not that I would get involved in head swapping. I’m terrible at gluing. Whenever I use Crazy Glue, I end up sticking extra things to whatever I’m working on. Sometimes the extra things are my fingers. I could end up with a head attached to my hand like a bowling ball.
Lest you think that this is all mad scientist stuff, Dr. Canavero firmly believes that head transplants can be used to treat conditions such as muscular dystrophy and quadriplegia with widespread organ failure. I would think it’s also an excellent treatment for acute headlessness. You’d have to be really desperate to have this operation though. After all, you’ll be committing to spending the rest of your life wearing turtlenecks, even in summer.
Here’s what I’m wondering: in such an operation, who is the donor and who is the recipient? The article isn’t clear about this. If you’re treating a condition like quadriplegia, wouldn’t the intention be to save the head by attaching it to a healthy body? This is obvious to me. Nevertheless, several people on Reddit have written that they would be willing to donate their heads if given the option. And why not? They’re not using them.
I can’t imagine a scenario in which you’d want to save your body by attaching it to somebody else’s healthy head. Why would you do that? You’d never know about it, because the part of a person that knows stuff would be someone else, yet your body would get the hospital bill. Although some celebrities with perfect bodies would be good nominees for showing up at a surgeon’s office singing “If I Only Had a Brain.”
Of course, like all science, there is a vast potential for this discovery to be abused. Megalomaniacs could try to achieve immortality by having their heads glued onto younger bodies every few years. If there’s anything scarier than the prospect of people like Donald Trump and Dick Cheney living forever, it’s the prospect of them living forever with their heads on the bodies of 20 year olds.
On the plus side, wouldn’t this procedure make things much easier for transsexual folks? Forget the hormones and that awkward period when you’re “a little of both.” Just pick out a nice body of the opposite sex, put your head on it, and you’re done! Of course, you’d still have that uncomfortable moment when you’re naked with someone for the first time and they accuse you of dyeing your hair and you have to explain that the color of the hair on your head doesn’t match the color of your hair in other areas for another reason entirely.
Anyway, I’m guessing that this whole thing is completely theoretical…for now. I mean, you’d have to spend decades doing it to mice and monkeys and such before they’d let you do it to a human, right?
Thank you, Barbara, for forwarding this article. And now, all this talk of heads has made me want a beer, so I’m going to grab a Blue Moon. And besides, I have to go feed my pet mouse a banana.
See you soon.