In 1954, the first successful organ transplant took place at Brigham Hospital in Boston. (It was a kidney.) Since then, medical science has allowed for the transplant of almost every human body part: lungs, livers, corneas, hands – even whole faces. An Italian surgeon named Sergio Canavero announced in November that he is ready to pursue the greatest challenge of all: the transplanting of an entire human head into a new body.
According to Newsweek, Canavero “will remove the head of a patient—an unidentified Chinese national—and attach it to a donor body, origin (and cause of death) unknown. The spinal cord will be fused and the blood vessels and muscles attached. The patient—same head, new body—will be kept in a coma for around a month while he (or she?) heals. Canavero says that if successful, his patient will eventually be able to walk again.”
The procedure has allegedly already occurred, only the donors were not alive at the time. Even putting aside the lack of scientific evidence that such a procedure is even possible, the outrage of surgeons around the globe, and the ethics of transplanting a head, there is one major underlying factor that is hard to ignore: spinal cords are notoriously hard to repair. Ask any doctor, and he or she will tell you that spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are among the most devastating injuries there are, because there is no guaranteed way to fix such an injury. According to Newsweek, about 12,500 SCIs occur each year.
What is a spinal cord injury?
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves. Any time those nerves are damaged, it becomes difficult – if not impossible – for the to send and/or receive signals from your brain. This results in one of two types of SCI: a complete injury, where the signals cannot be sent to or from any point of the injury, leading to full paralysis; and an incomplete injury, where a person retains some level of movement and feeling below the injury.
Because of the severity of these injuries, and the potential life-long impact they can have, SCIs are considered catastrophic injuries.
Leading causes of spinal cord injuries
A 2013 study published by the National Institutes of Health list the following reasons as the leading causes of spinal cord injuries:
- Automobile crashes – 31.5%
- Falls – 25.3%
- Gunshot wounds – 10.4%
- Motorcycle crashes – 6.8%
- Diving incidents – 4.7%
- Medical/surgical complications – 4.3%
- Other – 16.9%
Generally speaking, the study found that people under the age of 45 were more likely to sustain an SCI from a car crash, whereas people older than 45 were more likely to sustain the injury from a fall. Spinal cord injuries are also more common on the weekends and in warmer weather.
A full-head transplant might seem like an exciting sci-fi idea, but it appears to be entirely without merit – and largely decried by those in the medical field. In our opinion, anything that puts the spinal cord at risk is a mistake, and an egregious act of malpractice.
Living with a spinal cord injury can be challenging; choosing the right lawyer to represent you should not be. Taylor Jones Taylor provides comprehensive and aggressive counsel to injury victims throughout the state. Contact us or call 662.253.5193 to schedule a consultation at one of our Southaven, Hernando, or Olive Branch offices.