Here’s the basic pitch from the surgeon who wants to perform first ever head transplant

Dr Canavero
Dr Sergio Canavero Reuters

Dr Sergio Canavero, the Italian surgeon who wants to perform the first head transplant as soon as 2017, pitched his plan to American doctors on Friday, Reuters reports.

It was in Annapolis, Maryland, accompanied by Valery Spiridonov, the Russian man suffering from spinal muscular atrophy who volunteered to be the first person to undergo the surgery, that Canavero pitched the controversial procedure to the
American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Canavero tried to convince surgeons to assist him with the risky procedure.

Here are some of the main points of his argument:

  • Canavero hopes to be able to perform the surgery as early as December 2017
  • The surgery will probably take place either in the US or China
  • He promised the backing of American billionaires
  • He said that although it is a risky procedure, the chances of it being a successful surgery are as high as 90 per cent
  • He said Western medicine had failed Spiridonov
  • The operation could cost up to $US15 million

Numerous questions are still unanswered about the procedure and many issues raised previously are still prevalent. The Italian surgeon was also accused of announcing the surgery as part of a huge marketing ploy to promote the “Metal Gear Solid” video game franchise.

The accusations started after someone pointed out how similar a character from the game and the surgeon looked. Marketing ploy aside, many surgeons are still not convinced the procedure is feasible or ethical.

Valery Spiridonov
Valery Spiridonov has volunteered to be the first person to undergo a head transplant Reuters

The audience raised a lot of medical issues, cardio-thoracic surgeon Raymond Dieter said the first concern was whether it was possible to keep the brain alive during the procedure. But a number of ethical concerns were also raised, with the procedure making a lot of doctors uneasy.

Edith Tuazon, a nurse who attended the conference said she was not convinced, the Guardian reports.

“I do feel like it goes far,” she said. “Suppose you have a head transplant of someone who’s an artist and on to someone who’s not an artist — will that person be able to make the arms and the hands still draw? Will the hand still ‘think?’ Will it think like it did before? How are all those functions going to work together?”

Canavero mentioned that he had been preparing scientifically as well as psychologically to answer all the questions that would thrown his way.

He agreed that the surgery was risky but said that if you “stop taking risks, relax, lie back and wait for your death to come“.

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