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Check out our 8.4 Special Issue on head transplantation!

Image courtesy of Flickr user ellajphillips.

AJOBN is proud to announce that our 8.4 Special Issue on head transplantation is live. This issue features posts from Dr. Paul Root Wolpe (“Ahead of Our Time: Why Head Transplantation is Ethically Unsupportable”) and Dr. Sergio Canavero and Ren Xiaoping (“HEAVEN IN THE MAKING BETWEEN THE ROCK (the Academe) AND A HARD CASE (a Head Transplant)”). This issue is being published amongst a flurry of news coverage surrounding head transplantation. Though Dr. Canavero has been planning and promoting his idea for a head transplantation surgery for the last several years (watch his 2015 TedTalk entitled, “Head Transplantation: The Future Is Now”), the actual transplant is scheduled to occur by the end of this year. In fact, just a few days ago Canavero announced that he has successfully completed a head transplant surgery on a human corpse. Karen Rommelfanger and Paul Boshears wrote the editorial piece for the 8.4 issue and also recently released a Newsweek article discussing Canavero’s upcoming head transplant surgery on a live patient.

Rommelfanger and Boshears state,

“We have been disappointed by the initial responses from experts weighing in on the matter. So far the general response has been either to mock the character of Sergio Canavero, the neurosurgeon proposing the operations, or ignore the subject in the hope it goes away. But we think these opinions and the reporting on this procedure has missed two critical questions: Why China? Why now?”

Sergio Canavero, image courtesy of Flickr.

In his article for Issue 8.4, Canavero states,

“Actually, not since Galileo has a scientific idea received so much scathing remarks and generated so much acrimony – even at a personal level – amid the medical, surgical, and ethical community than HEAVEN (Canavero 2013). Today this idea no longer faces up to the Catholic Church (at least not directly), but to its current Western substitute: the Academe. However, while the Catholic Church invited Galileo to defend his thesis, the academic world did not. As thousands of doctors from around the world wrote to be part of this effort (including several who had plans for a head/brain transplant themselves!), no single mainstream official association, on the back of media requests, contacted us for more details (some even refused to answer those requests!). Even worse, as proven by several conferences we have been invited to, surgeons and other professionals had not read our literature (“not enough time!”) and the supposed impossibility of reconnecting the spinal cord was based on nothing more than outdated notions on spinal anatomophysiology.”

Paul Root Wolpe

While Wolpe responds with,

“They claim that they have been the subjected to the most scathing remarks and acrimony since Galileo(!). Yet, their provocative use of the acronym HEAVEN for the procedure itself, their mis-citing of Collins and Pinch’s book “The Golem: What You Should Know about Science” to defend their practices, and their lack of convincing evidential support and ethical sensitivity for such an ethically fraught and unprecedented surgical undertaking, all point to a kind of social and scientific tone-deafness that might have been avoided with a more scientifically and ethically rigorous, transparent, and collegial approach to the endeavor.”

Read Canavero’s and Wolpe’s articles in their entirety and the rest of the 8.4 issue here. You can also revisit one of our past posts on head transplants here. We ask that you keep a level head as you read.


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