The Current

First human head transplant attempt faces harsh criticism

Italian doctor Sergio Canavero says the intricate operation of a head transplant would last as long as 36 hours and use a team of 150 nurses and surgeons. He not only insists it is possible, he's got a willing patient. He also has a list of detractors who say his plan is… harmful and crazy.
Russian computer scientist Valery Spiridinov is terminally ill, suffering from a degenerative muscle disease and confined to a wheel chair. He has volunteered to be a patient for the first ever head transplant. (Russia Today/RUPTLY)
This technology is similar to the first man to walk in space. This is because in the future it will help thousands of people, who are in an even more deplorable state than I am. We hope this technology will lead to success.- Valery Spiridinov. Russian computer scientist & volunteer for head transplant

Though the quest Valery Spiridinov hopes to go on may sound like the stuff of science fiction.

Mr. Spiridnov is terminally ill, suffering from a degenerative muscle disease and must use a wheel chair. What's giving him hope is the promise of  a head transplant. And he believes the technology is there... to remove the head from his ailing body, and connect it to a healthy, donor body.

The doctor who believes he can do it is Dr. Sergio Canavero. He joined us from Turin, Italy.

Transplanting a human head sounds ambitious... even revolutionary, but it does sound like something we should seek a second medical opinion on.

Dr. James Downar is a Critical Care and Palliative Care Physician at the University Health Network in Toronto. 

As mind-boggling as the idea of a head transplant may be today, not that long ago the same could have been said about a heart transplant... or even a liver transplant.

Dr. David Hamilton is a retired transplant surgeon, as well as a medical historian. And he's the author of "The History of Organ Transplantation: Ancient Legends to Modern Practice Dr. David Hamilton was in St. Andrews, Scotland.

What do you think? Does the idea of a head transplant strike you as a hopeful innovation or is it going too far?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien and Sarah Grant.