FRAME response to ‘head transplant’ proposal

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FRAME response to ‘head transplant’ proposal

Researchers have announced that it might be possible to transplant a human head onto a donor body within two years – but FRAME is concerned about the ethical and scientific questions surrounding the project.

FRAME Scientific Director Dr Gerry Kenna said: “At first glance, the proposal to transplant a human head to a different body has the appearance of opportunist sensationalism. Even if it could be achieved successfully – a very, very big if – it would be enormously expensive and traumatic and have many potential long term risks (organ rejection, neurodegeneration, loss of motor coordination etc.). And how would donors be obtained? Truly the stuff of Frankenstein-style nightmares.

“On further reflection, things get even worse. The proposed human whole body transplants will need to be preceded by extensive studies on large numbers of animals – which will include intelligent higher primates. How on earth can this be justified?

“We can all sympathise with patients afflicted by dreadful illnesses that currently cannot be treated, such as quadriplegia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, advanced cancers etc. But why should we think that the answer is invasive surgery? Surely a much better way forwards is to focus on developing treatments that stop the illnesses progressing and/or reverse their effects. Several decades ago, the default treatment for peptic ulcers was surgical resection. Nowadays, most patients can be treated simply and easily – and far more effectively – using antibiotics supplemented with drugs that block acid secretion.

“This transplant proposal is bad science and will lead to misuse of potentially hundreds of animals in the research. Let’s move forward with good science that uses human non-animal models to help understand and treat human diseases.”

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