Animals Bear the Burden of Developing Head Transplant Technology

Animals Bear the Burden of Developing Head Transplant Technology

    Dr.  Xiaoping Ren has been lavishly funded by the Chinese government in an attempt to become a world leader in science with the first human head transplant. From his laboratory in the frozen north of China, Dr. Ren has operated on hundreds of animals in his research. He has declined to state exactly how many mice, pigs, monkeys and human corpses his team has worked on, but they do experiment on animals “almost every day” [1]. Lamenting the expense of the monkeys he operates on, Dr. Ren has dismissed concerns from animal rights activists over the ethical use of monkeys, “If we really need a monkey for an important part of the project, we use a monkey.  It is the same with universities everywhere” [1].  

Such procedures are not new, there is video footage available online from the Prelinger Archives that document Russian experiments with dog heads in the 1940s [2]. In 1959, LIFE magazine documented a Russian procedure involving the creation of a two-headed dog [6]. The successful Russian operation is depicted on the walls of the Chinese transplant laboratory for inspiration [4].

Head transplantation is not limited to remote research laboratories in Russia and China.  In the 1970s, American neurosurgeon Robert White carried out similar experiments in the U.S. Dr. White was a devout Catholic who prayed before every surgery and, at one point, served as medical adviser to Pope John Paul II [3]. His team successfully transplanted the head of a rhesus monkey that survived eight days with “full consciousness and complete cranial nerve function, as measured by its wakefulness, aggressiveness, and ability to eat and to follow people moving around the room with its eyes” [7]. 

Theoretical neurobiologist Mark Changizi has claimed that a simple marketing trick can resolve the ethical concerns of performing such experiments on monkeys. He stated, “If one calls this ‘torso-and-limbs transplant’ instead of ‘head transplant,’ then the nightmare-ish ethical associations are dissolved” [5].  

 

References.

Mail on Sunday. 2016. China's Frankenstein: I may do human head transplant next year; After gruesome surgery on monkeys, mice and corpses.

Experiments in the Revival of Organisms. 1940. Moscow, Russia.

Motherboard. 2013. Meet the Late Dr. Robert White, Who Transplanted the First Monkey Head. 7/11/2013.

Parry, Simon. 2016. After gruesom surgery on monkeys, mice and corpses China's Frankenstein reveals: I may do a human head transplant next year. Mail on Sunday.

2016. Primate experimentation : Surgeon claims monkey head transplants are a reality.

Stevens, Edmund. 1959. Russia's two-headed dog: Soviet surgeons perform a fantastic experiment as part of research into transplanting human organs. LIFE 47 (3).

White, Robert J. 1999. HEAD TRANSPLANTS. Scientific American Presents:24.

 

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