Life as Davros (was NEURO: Head Transplants)

O'Regan, Emlyn (
Mon, 30 Aug 1999 19:16:21 +1000

> White has carried out more than 10,000 brain operations on humans. His
> work
> on monkeys, which started over 20 years ago, culminated in the full head
> transplants.
> The animals survived for more than a week with no impairment of mental
> faculties before they were put down, for humane reasons.
I'm thinking that's not such a good sign.

> Head or brain transplants have long been seen as the holy grail for
> neurosurgery. In theory, they offer the nearest anyone could get to
> immortality.
> In reality, however, White's technique would initially have a more limited
> application. Despite many recent advances, surgeons still cannot reconnect
> or regrow severed spinal nerves. This means that, like the monkeys, anyone
> who underwent a head transplant would be paralysed from the neck down.
I love this bit (in a sick kind of way)! I've said to friends & associates for a long while now, that I'd rather live on as Davros (freaky shrivelled hideous puppet guy in an automated wheelchair, super bad guy from Doctor Who), than die a natural death; I'd even prefer it to cryo (I like to watch history go by, thanks very much). Given that really good regenerative techniques (reversing aging, using cloned bits, nanotech repair) or better than decent alternatives (uploading, lots of possibilities for interesting replacement for human bodies) are just around the corner (certainly in the next 100 years something should pop up), then hanging on at all costs (eg: as a head on a paralysed body (yuk!)) is a really good idea for us life-enthusiasts (pro-lifers? ha ha).

So now I really can become Davros. I'm getting the 'chair and the funky headset built now!

> Most of the subsequent demand for head transplants would, however, almost
> certainly come from a group presenting far greater ethical problems -
> elderly or dying millionaires with enough money to pay for the operation
> and
> the years of aftercare.
That album had better sell...


The whole thing gets worrisomely icky about here...

> The operational procedure, described by White in a paper published last
> week, would involve two teams of surgeons. Deep incisions would be made
> around the necks to expose the six major blood vessels and the spine. The
> next step would be to cool the head by connecting it to White's new
> cerebral
> perfusion machine. Initially this would carry blood from the original body
> but, as the operation progressed, a second set of tubes from the machine
> would be hooked up to blood vessels of the recipient body.
> Then, taps would switch off the head's blood supply from the original body
> and replace it with blood from the new body.
Yes, taps switching off my blood supply and switching on a new blood supply; maybe this is more information than I needed. But then if I'm any kind of transhumanist, I'm supposed to be paying attention to this stuff; squeamishness is for the landfill.
> At this point the head would be detached, by severing the spinal cord, and
> then attached to the new body. Such procedures could mean halting the
> blood
> supply but the brain's low temperature would minimise the risk of damage.
> Then the blood vessels, muscles and skin could be sewn together using
> standard surgical techniques.
OK, what I really want to know is, would one be conscious during this procedure? I can just imagine a surgeon picking up my head by the hair and staring into my wildy rolling eyes - "This is what we do to the enemies of the revolution! Just kidding!"
> Reeve, who has set up a foundation to promote research into the causes of
> paralysis and potential cures, is understood to have taken a close
> interest
> in White's research.
> White refused to reveal his future clients but was confident many would
> come
> forward. He said: "The Frankenstein legend, where a human being is
> constructed by sewing parts together, will become a reality early in the
> 21st century."
Lay on, Macduff, And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!' Emlyn