A RUSSIAN man who has a debilitating illness has volunteered to become the first person to undergo a head transplant – but experts say the side effects of the procedure could be worse than death.
Valery Spiridonov, 30, suffers from Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, a rare form of spinal muscular atrophy.
The controversial operation will involve cooling his head to around 12 degrees Celsius, cutting it from his body and connecting it to the donated body of a brain-dead person.
After surgery, Valery will be kept in a medically-induced coma for three to four weeks while doctors stimulate his spinal cord nerves to reconnect and start functioning.
But surgeons believe the opinion-dividing procedure could cause Valery to go insane or die.
"I would not wish this on anyone," said Dr Hunt Batjer, president elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons.
"I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death."
The experimental transplant, due to be carried out in 2017 by Italian surgeon Dr Sergio Canavero, is likely to take 36-hours and will involve over 150 doctors and nurses.
Arthur Caplan, director of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Centre described Dr Canavero as "nuts".
He believes that the bodies of head transplant patients "would end up being overwhelmed with different pathways and chemistry than they are used to and they’d go crazy”.
But Dr Canavero hit back at the criticism saying Valery will not only live with his new body, but will be able to walk within a year of the operation.
He told New Scientist last year: "I would say we have plenty of data to go on.
"It's important that people stop thinking this is impossible. This is absolutely possible and we're working towards it."
The potentially ground-breaking treatment was performed on a monkey in 1970.
The animal only lived for eight days after the body rejected the new head, leaving the monkey unable to breath and move.