No, this is not a joke or an onion parody. There is actually a man in Russia who has volunteered to receive the world’s first human head transplant (or body transplant, depending on how you look at it).
Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from a rare form of spinal muscular dystrophy called Werdnig-Hoffman disease, recently met with Italian Dr. Sergio Canavero who has agreed to perform the 36-hour operation. The procedure will also require Spiridonov to be put in a medically induced coma for 3-4 weeks.
Spiridonov and Canavero were recently in the United States — where Canavero has said he wants to do the surgery — presenting their case to the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS).
In the latest episode of BioTalk, Rebecca Taylor and I talk about the ethical considerations of this and and other extremely invasive medical procedures, our tendency to treat mental diseases as physical diseases, recent comments from the Vatican on plastic surgery and how it relates to transhumanism and the importance of “bodily integrity.”
Or audio only:
Movie suggestion: The Brain that Wouldn’t Die (with MST3K commentary, natch).
Stem cells from umbilical cord blood helped Paul Wagle beat chemo-resistant leukemia.
Now, after surviving a brutal recovery period, which included another near-death experience, he’s discerning a call to the priesthood as a seminarian for the diocese of Wichita.
Click here to read his story or watch below.
Commenting on gender reassignment as “treatment” for people with gender identity issues a few years ago, Wesley Smith said:
People want to be fulfilled and lead happy lives as “themselves.” Very well. But I also worry that once we accept the premise that we have a fundamental right to be physically remade to comport with how we feel about ourselves—and to have society act in accordance—we will have crossed a cultural Rubicon, leading to extreme outcomes.
It’s a “slippery slope” concern that’s not totally without merit. Consider: the mental illness once known as body integrity identity disorder, that now goes by the catchy new moniker “transability“.
Such word engineering suggests that this may very well be the next stage in radical self-recreationism?
Typically, people with BIID do not accept one or more of their own limbs and seek to amputate them. But, “transabled” seems to encompass any otherwise able-bodied person who wants transform his or her body to obtain a physical impairment.
“Okay, but, society would never allow such a thing to become mainstream,” you protest. No? Just look how easily the media has already slipped into the term “transabled.” It may only be a matter of time.
These are “transient times“, indeed.
*IMG: Chloe Jennings-White wears leg braces and uses a wheelchair…even though her legs are fine.
This is a great story:
After helping Sami Simmons learn to adjust to life with a wheelchair, the staff at Rusk Rehabilitation Center was not going to let the Brunswick teen miss her junior prom.
Sami was paralyzed from the waist down after she was ejected from her airborne 1997 GMC Jimmy during an October 2013 wreck. She was a patient at Rusk, 315 Business Loop 70 W., for about a month after the crash.
Barely 18 months later, she was back at Rusk for treatment of a pressure ulcer — a bed sore — that made it difficult for her to sit in her wheelchair. The wound led to a bone infection and another stay at Rusk.
While physical and occupational therapists helped get Sami on the mend, the prom at Brunswick High School was rapidly approaching. Sami, 17, had an elaborate prom dress, the perfect shoes — and a date.
“I said, ‘We’re going to get you to prom,’ ” Jenny DeShon, an occupational therapist at Rusk, said…
DeShon navigated administrative hoops to get approval for the April 25 prom date, and she assembled a team to get Sami dolled-up for the dance 75 miles northwest of Columbia. Mary Simmons smiled at the memory.
“They decorated her chair,” she said.
DeShon returned the smile. “It took a village,” she said. Rusk staff members styled Sami’s hair and handled her makeup.
DeShon and physical therapist Bonnie Fruits chauffeured Sami to the prom, leaving Columbia at 4:30 p.m. They returned seven hours later.
“We were the Sami pit crew,” DeShon said. “I was really amazed to see the support of her school.”
“They were really excited to see me,” Sami said. Friends jockeyed to take Sami in and out of a busy photo booth.
“All of the effort that it took — I wouldn’t think twice about it,” DeShon said. “We thought of everything you need being an hour and a half away from here.”
During what should have been the most traumatic and depressing time of my life, the dedicated staff at Rusk (all of them: docs, nurses, PTs, OTs, techs, etc…) helped me see what was still possible and accept and adjust to life with a spinal cord injury with joy and good humor.
In many ways, it is thanks to them that I was able to attend my own prom just a few short months after my accident.
I have nothing but wonderful memories of the time I spent there. So glad to see the staff is just as awesome today as it was 16 years ago. And it’s about to get even more awesome, because…
I’m extremely proud to say that, starting this week, my little sister will be a PT at this fantastic facility! It was while I was a patient at Rusk that Carly decided she wanted to be a PT. So happy she was able to land her dream job — just FIVE months after graduating, no less!
Always a pleasure getting up before the sunrises to chat about bioethics with Mike Allen.
If you haven’t yet, please sign your name to the Stop Surrogacy Now campaign.
I am currently editing a new episode of BioTalk about transhumanism and the (possible) world’s first head transplant. In the meantime, check out our previous episodes dealing with transhumanism:
Finally, if you like Catholic radio, please consider downloading the Real Life Radio app (Apple, Android) for programming from some of your favorite online Catholic personalities. Including: Mark Shea (with regular co-host Simcha Fisher), Allison Gingras, Leticia Ochoa Adams, Leah Libresco, Mike Allen of course, and many more! Then also consider helping them improve their apps to be able to offer you more unique and localized content.
Smarter Every Day is one of my favorite channels on YouTube. I’m not a big science/physics buff. But Destin manages to make it all really fun and interesting.
A few years ago I shared with you one of my favorite SED videos “Why You Didn’t Die at Childbirth“, explaining how human beings go from breathing fluid inside the mother’s womb to breathing air after birth. Quite fascinating.
This year he sort of followed up on that video after the birth of his fourth child. Here, after sharing some other pregnancy/childbirthing insights he and his wife have learned over the years, he describes experiencing the above change in his newborn daughter first-hand, noting how childbirth “changes hearts on many levels.”
The design and construction of human life is so awesomely perfect. And, while I can’t speak from any childbirth experience of my own, I can say that my heart has been forever changed in the past 16 months thanks to the births of my nephews.
Gosh I miss those little weirdos so much already!
From the Center for Bioethics and Culture:
Stop Surrogacy Now brings together a worldwide, ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse group opposed to the exploitation of women and the human trafficking of children through surrogacy.
With support from 16 organizations and more than 100 individuals from 18 countries, Stop Surrogacy Now demands recognition that surrogacy exploits women (in many cases poor and marginalized) who are paid to bear children. Often these women are subject to coercion, restrictive or substandard living conditions, and poor health care. In addition, surrogacy carries many severe, short- and long-term health risks. Many surrogates live as indentured persons with 24 hour monitoring of the “property” within their wombs.
Stop Surrogacy Now demands recognition that children conceived for surrogacy are quality-controlled: subject to sex-selection or abandonment for disability or simple change-of-mind. Children produced through surrogacy are objects of contract as well as products of inequitable bargaining power and unregulated markets. Most often, these commercially produced children experience the sudden and complete severance of the natural bond between mother and child and are intentionally deprived of contact with and knowledge of one or both biological parents in direct violation of the U.N.’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
Signatories to Stop Surrogacy Now demand a complete stop to surrogacy in order to protect women and children worldwide and to end efforts that would seek to legitimize and normalize trafficking children.
Shortly after I mentioned it as a possibility last week, scientists in China confirmed that they have been editing the genomes of several non-viable human embryos from IVF clinics using a new promising gene-editing technique called CRISPR.
Technically speaking the results were a disappointment to researchers and proved that the technique is not ready for “medical use”. Of the 85 embryos that they injected, either the embryo died or the gene was not altered.
As disappointing as the results were, I’m sure they won’t stop there. In fact, it has been reported that at least four other groups in China are working on this technique.
This should be a wake-up call. It is time for the US and China to follow the lead of many other countries and legally ban germ-line genetic modifications because of the danger to future generations.
I talked about this on the Mike Allen Show yesterday morning (I come on after about 15 minutes or so).
Recently Jennifer Lahl sat down with Jessica Kern, a young woman who was born through a commercial surrogacy arrangement and who describes herself as “a product of surrogacy.”
Whatever you think about third party reproduction, it is important to give people like Jessica a fair hearing so that we can fully understand the ways in which this technology affects the children involved.
Visit Jessica’s blog: The Other Side of Surrogacy
Last week I drove from Florida to Missouri to visit my baby sister and her babies — and it has been well worth the 15 hour drive!!
Just a little cute baby blogging to start your week off on a positive note — before I get into some the latest disturbing news on the genetic engineering front.