Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero first sent media and medical professionals into a frenzy in early 2015 when he claimed that he’d perform the first successful human head transplant by 2017.
With only one month left in 2017 Cancavero has re-emerged with news that the first successful head transplant has been completed….on a cadaver.
In a press conference in Vienna, Professor Canavero stated: “The first human transplant on human cadavers has been done. A full head swap between brain-dead organ donors is the next stage. And that is the final step for the formal head transplant for a medical condition which is imminent.”
According to Canavero, the cadaver head transplant was completed in an 18-hour operation at Harbin Medical University in China, during which a team of surgeons led by Dr. Xiaoping Ren successfully severed then reconnected the spinal cord, nerves, and blood vessels in the spine and neck. The University is expected to write a full report on the operation within the next few days.
But, Canavero’s biggest news was yet to come.
The professor announced that he would be partnering with Xiaoping Ren to perform the world’s first human head transplant (on a living human) in China because medical communities in the United States and Europe would not permit the controversial procedure. Adding that they’d confirm the surgery’s date “within days.”
While Canavero would not divulge the identity of the Chinese donor or recipient, he stated that the donor would be the healthy body of a brain-dead patient matched for build with a recipient’s disease-free head.
Canavero estimates the procedure will cost up to $100 million and involve several dozen surgeons and other specialists.
Though Canavero has spent the last couple of years writing scientific studies on the feat, massive doubt surrounds the scientific legitimacy of his promises. Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at Langone Medical Center of New York University, said Canavero was “out of his mind”.
Speaking to Wired in May of this year about head transplant surgery, neuroscientist Dean Burnett said: “When someone makes an extreme claim, my rule of thumb is this: If they haven’t provided robust scientific evidence, but they have done a TED talk, alarm bells should be ringing.”
Canavero’s TEDx Talk can be viewed here: