Two Heads Better Than One?

You can’t make this stuff up.

An Italian scientist recently claimed we’re getting closer to the world’s first human head transplant.

Dr. Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group made the announcement in a paper published in a journal called Surgical Neurology International.

In the article, he claimed the technical barrier to grafting one person’s head onto another person’s body can now be overcome.

He said the “greatest technical hurdle” is reconnecting the spinal cords of the donor and recipient, but added: “It is my contention that the technology only now exists for such linkage…”

Dr. Canavero calls the procedure “HEAVEN” (Head Anastomosis Venture with Cord).

The technique is similar to that used by Dr. Robert White, who was able to transplant the head of a rhesus monkey onto the body of a second rhesus monkey in 1970.

Even though the monkey lived for eight days, the process apparently was gruesome. Dr. Jerry Silver of Case Western Reserve University recalled the experiment.

“I remember that the head would wake up, the facial expressions looked like terrible pain and confusion and anxiety in the animal,” he told  “The head will stay alive, but not very long.”

When they tried to feed the monkey, food fell to the floor.  “It was just awful.  I don’t think it should ever be done again,” Dr. Silver was quoted as saying.

The process Dr. Canavero outlined requires both patients to be in the same operating room.

Then the head to be transplanted must be cooled to between 54.6 and 59 degrees.  Surgeons then have to quickly remove both heads and re-connect the head to be preserved to the circulatory system of the other patient within an hour.

The last hurdle to overcome is how to connect the spinal cords of two separate animals and then get them to grow together properly. Scientists have been able to sever and re-connect the spinal cord in the same animal.  However, there has never even been a successful attempt to connect the spinal cord from the head of one animal to the body of another.

Proponents claim the procedure holds great promise for helping the severely handicapped, such as paraplegics or persons with muscular dystrophy. But the operation would carry a heavy price tag—$13 million by some estimates.

Aside from the costs, placing the head of one person on another body raises a host of ethical issues, in addition to conjuring up ghoulish images of Frankenstein.

Dr. Silver went so far as to tell CBS: “Just to do the experiments is unethical. This is bad science, this should never happen.”

These astonishing developments are just the latest example of why Georgia Right to Life is working to pass House Bill 481, the Ethical Treatment of Embryos Act.

The bill is designed to provide ethical and moral guidelines for the biotech industry, while protecting innocent human life and dignity at the same time.

“Science can hold great promise for good,” said GRTL President Dan Becker.  “But left unchecked, it could lead to outcomes that rival any horror movie.”

HB 481 failed to advance in the 2013 Georgia legislative session, but will be a major part of GRTL’s efforts in 2014.

(GRTL encourages pro-life supporters to review HB 481 and the talking points.  Be prepared to contact your legislators when requested next year.)



By Wayne DuBois                                                                         
Media Relations Advisor