If a neurosurgeon were to transplant the head of one person onto the body of another, who would that reconstructed person be — assuming that the operation was a success.
It seems pretty far-fetched, I know. But an Italian neurosurgeon says he is actually planning to perform this operation sometime next year. Reports an article on the Montreal Gazette website, with a video showing how the operation will be done: Sergio Canavero will transpant the head of 31-year-old Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from a rare and devastating form of spinal muscular atrophy, onto the body of a man who is brain dead.
The assumption some seem to be making — other than the surgeon is a quack — is that it would be Valery occupying the body after the transplant, because it his head and brain, after all.
But for anyone who believes in the spirit or soul, and that it resides in the heart rather than the brain, it might not be so, er, cut and dried.
Would the spirit of the brain-dead man stay in his body after Valery’s head is attached to it? After all, the body hasn’t actually died and many never have “given up the ghost.”
Would Valery’s spirit travel with his brain and take up residence in the heart of the new host body?
Could there end up being two spirits residing there?
Or would Valery’s spirit return from whence it came once his body is dead?
Would the new body then have the spirit of one being and the brain of another?
Oy. The permutations are making my head spin.
It boggles the mind . . . and I wonder if the operation would boggle Valery’s mind.
Of course, it is doubtful the operation will actually proceed, but some day someone will attempt it — and may inadvertently prove or disprove the existence of the spirit and all the occult/religious/spiritual philosophy so many of us have put our faith in over the centuries.
It could prove that man is nothing more than a mortal machine, with one life to live and oblivion for eternity afterward.
Or it could prove that we are immortal gods, beyond time itself.
Or it could prove nothing at all, leaving the mystery still unsolved.
P.S. I’m going to do a follow-up to the executions post in the days to come.
Photo credit: Frankenstein monster head, from the National Museum of Cinema, Turin, Italy. (André Ribeiro/Wikimedia Commons)