Re:Head transplantation done.

Brian D Williams (
Tue, 4 Nov 1997 10:43:29 -0800 (PST)

>From a posting on Cryonet:

Several excerpts from the 11-2-97 London Sunday Times follow:

"Monkeys are given head transplants

by Lois Rogers
Medical Correspondent

SURGEONS have transplanted monkeys' heads on to fresh bodies,
paving the way for a new era in human transplant technology.
By maintaining the brain stem, which deals with reflexes such as
breathing, heart function and digestion, the research team has been
able to keep the new brain supplied with fresh, oxygenated blood.

A series of experiments involving up to 30 animals has allowed
surgeons to perfect a technique of minimising loss of blood supply
to the heads during severance operations.

The researchers also believe there was little disturbance to the
monkeys' higher brain functions as a result of the procedure.

The animals were able to maintain the cycle of waking and sleeping.
They were capable of visually tracking laboratory staff and could
react to voices and noises.

Their facial nerves were still operational and they could eat and
drink normally. When a member of the team put a finger into an
experimental animal's mouth when it seemed irritable, he was
bitten. "....

"The latest developments in the 20-year project, including the
vital step of achieving respiration in the transplanted heads, have
been reported in an American scientific journal by Robert White,
professor of neurosurgery at Case Western Reserve University in
Cleveland, Ohio.

White believes the technology will benefit people facing
multi-organ transplants because of serious injury to their bodies;
sufferers of degenerative diseases, and ultimately those who want
a new lease on life by transferring an old head onto a younger

"I have devised the operation that would need to be done in
humans," said White. "I have been to autopsy rooms and dissecting
rooms and examined the sort of incisions which would have to be
made, and at what level, and how the various vessels would need to
be reconnected.

"We are talking about an operation that could be done on humans.
Whether it should be done is another question."

So far the bodies pumping blood through the transplanted brains
have remained completely paralysed because researchers have been
unable to reconnect the nerve fibres from the spinal cord in the
body to the brain.

The brains can think and are conscious, but cannot communicate with
the limbs. "I have no doubt this treatment will be available in the
public arena within the next 25 to 30 years," White said. "There
will be a lot of ethical and moral arguments, but I think they are
inappropriate. What we are trying to do here is to prolong life.
The human spirit or soul is within the physical structure of the
brain. I don't think it's in your left arm or anywhere else."

However, he admitted the definition of brain death would have to be
altered to allow bodies, possibly those in a persistent vegetative
state in which there was still some brain stem activity, to be used
as donors." ....

"Peter Hamlyn, a leading neurosurgeon at St Bartholomew's Hospital
in London, who helped set up the British Brain and Spine
Foundation, said the work was cruel and irrelevant. "...
[comment: and penning animals for life in order to slaughter them
is not, I suppose?]...

"Your head might as well be in a jar as attached to another body.
The fact that it is tied to a body acting simply as a pump would
just be an inconvenience because you would have to drag the body
around. [comment: he completely ignores the fact that successfully
reattaching the spinal column may well be only a matter of time and

"There might be a few cranks who would want it done, but for normal
people the whole point of having a brain is that it interacts with
the body," he said.

Other ethicists and theologians are worried that the technology
could be exploited for cosmetic life extension. [ comment:
"cosmetic life extension"? Sounds like an oxymoron to me]

"It is indicative of the disastrous route that Western medicine is
taking," said Richard Nicholson, editor of the Bulletin of Medical
Ethics. "Is any individual so important to society that we should
tolerate attempts to lengthen their existence in a way which most
people would find abhorrent?"

David Jenkins, the former Bishop of Durham, said he was concerned
by the social trend represented by head transplant research. "I do
get more and more alarmed that people refuse to see limits. To try
to put a head on a different body would be totally destructive of
the personality. I would sooner be totally dead than half and