That Which Makes Us Human…

Summary:

Today’s article is, oddly enough, about transplants, not computers.  Specifically, it is about head transplants, and the fact that they may very soon be possible.  Is it right to put your head on someone else’s body?  That’s what we’re going to be talking about ^_^.

Analysis:

First of all, very little information was given in the article itself.  It simply stated that an Italian surgeon, by the name of Dr. Sergio Canavero, has been making claims that through the use of fusogens it very well might be possible to perform a head transplant within the next few years, and then commented on how odd that would be if it were actually possible.  Fusogens themselves are basically bits of stuff which can be used to fuse different calls together.  I wish I could give a more technical explanation, but it’s way over my head.  But that’s what they do, and Dr. Canavero believes he can use it to fuse a head with a different body.  Head transplants have been done before on monkeys, albeit with the monkeys being left paralyzed, but the idea of being able to do it on a human has been thought impossible.  I don’t really know if it is possible, that’s beyond the scope of this blog, and luckily I don’t have to.  This blog is about ethical issues, not whether or not something is actually possible.  With that in mind I’m going to move forward under the assumption that head transplants will be a viable surgical operation very soon in the future.

I think that the first question is:  If you’re putting your head on another body, whose body are you going to put it on?  I mean, if we assume that the donor body was already dead, would it not  make more sense to harvest it for the organs, instead of the body, so that you can save the life of a lot of people, rather than just one?  The is already a shortage of available organs for transplants.  Head transplants would only serve to increase this problem.  There are other concerns as well.  For example, if head transplants end up being very expensive (a likely scenario), then perhaps only the rich could afford them, allowing themselves to effectively live forever , barring brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.  And if you don’t think that people will try to live forever, Hebrews 9:27 says that “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”.  Everyone must die, but many also fear what comes after, for a part of them knows, on some level, that the judgment is coming.  They will do everything they can to remain alive, and head transplants are option for the rich who can afford it indefinitely.  I’m fine with them trying to stay alive as long as possible, but the fear of death has prompted people to do some very unethical in the pursuit of a solution.

One last thing.  With the advances in prosthetic limbs which have been developed recently, including limbs with feeling, what is to stop the movie “RoboCop” from becoming reality?  If you can’t find a body to transplant to, simply build your own body, and use that.  I feel that if a head transplant is successful, within a couple decades( certainly within our lifetimes) human cyborgs will be a thing, and a normal thing at that.  I’m all for the medical applications here, as people who are quadriplegics would be able to have freedom again, but I’m concerned by the obvious weaponization possibilities.  Once again: “RoboCop”.  But that’s not an issue with the technology, only with its use.  Anything can be used unethically, but that doesn’t make it unethical.

Summary:

So, apparently human head transplants will be possible in the future.  I’m okay with this, but am worried about where the bodies will come from for the head to be transplanted to.  If they are taken from the current pool of organ donors, then others will have to go without.  Also, if that’s the case, the very rich might simply use the technology to stay alive indefinitely, living far beyond the standard human lifetime.  On the other hand, it is very possible that in the future full body prostheses will be available, which is perfectly okay, minus a few very glaring possibilities of cyborg soldiers.

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