Two days ago, we reported on a controversial paper by Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canaveri about human head transplants. The paper, entitled “HEAVEN: The head anastomosis venture Project outline for the first human head transplantation with spinal linkage,” makes a claim straight out of science fiction: that the technology required for successful human-head transplantation is finally here, and that it could be used to help people with irreparable damage to their bodies and spinal cords.
But is it ethical?
Before human head transplantation could enter the realm of consideration, scientists would have to perform multiple successful experiments on primates, Stephen Latham, a bioethicist at Yale University, says. And none of those, he believes, would be condoned by any reasonable ethics committee.
But say the primate experiments did pass the ethics test. And so did the human trials. The fact remains that a head transplant is a bit outrageous for the needs of most patients, Latham says. In the case of quadriplegics, or individuals with full-body paralysis, scientists would perform less invasive surgical procedures before they attempted to replace the patient’s entire body, he says. “If you’d have the technology to attach spinal columns, you’d have certainly