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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 24 November 2017 > Heads or Tales?

Heads or Tales?

A surgeon planning to attempt the first human head transplant is either a brave pioneer or delusional

MEDICINE

@hannah_osborne

JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY

SERGIO CANAVERO CLAIMS HE CAN MAKE YOU immortal, but there’s a small catch. He first wants to chop off your head.

If that’s not a deal-breaker, you’ll be happy to hear that the Italian neurosurgeon has announced he will perform the world’s first human head transplant in China sometime in December. (He’s vague on details, possibly for security reasons.) He will remove the head of a patient—an unidentified Chinese national—and attach it to a donor body, origin (and cause of death) unknown. The spinal cord will be fused and the blood vessels and muscles attached. The patient—same head, new body—will be kept in a coma for around a month while he (or she?) heals. Canavero says that if successful, his patient will eventually be able to walk again.

If his plan sounds ludicrous, that’s because it is. Nobody knows how to fix a broken human spinal cord, and the scientific evidence that supports Canavero’s approach is highly questionable. Oh, and the ethics of performing an unproven procedure that jeopardizes one (or possibly two) human lives are sketchy, at best.

None of that deters Canavero, so hold on to your hats.

PAGING DR. FRANKENSTEIN

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