The other day I came across an article about a doctor ready to perform a head transplant. Evidently, a neurosurgeon feels like he can take the head off of a live human and place it on the a brain-dead body. Some people compare Dr. Sergio Canavero’s attempts at this type of operation kin to Dr. Victor Frankenstein. In fact, he may have already performed a transplant on a cadaver. They claimed it was the first successful head transplant. I am not sure how that qualifies as a successful transplant. If anything it qualifies him for a spot in Ripley’s. Believe it or Not! Museum in St. Augustine.
I must confess, though, I never read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. I never saw Boris Karloff as Frankenstein, either. I have been to Ripley’s museum and saw the shrunken head and how head hunters made them. I also saw Mel Brooks’ movie Young Frankenst-eyen or was it Frankenst-een. This, however, makes me neither an expert to comment on Mary Shelly’s work or on neurosurgery. All I know about the novel is that Victor Frankenstein pieced together a monster out of spare human parts, where he got these parts I am not sure, I would assume he was skulking around a morgue or digging in fog shrouded-graveyard after midnight. Everything creepy happens after midnight.
And somehow the good doctor managed to get this creature up right and moving forward through the magic of alchemy or an ancient form Saksamaa voodoo–if such a thing exists. So now, this hodgepodge of random parts comes alive. However, life is never that simple or easy. The monster ends up making a lot problems for everybody involved. All of this is probably very similar to the way General Motors put together the Chevy Vega.
Most people today may not remember the 1970s when Japan started its invasion of small cars into the United States. American automobile manufacturers were still making those big-assed land monsters with 427 cubic-inch engines (or 7.0 Liters today). These behemoths like the Ford LTD, the Buick Riviera, the Dodge Polaris, the Cadillac Coup de Ville and the Chevy Impala to name of few with their wide body and flashy chrome parading the American dream down the highway. These biased belted-tire rides were the queens of the road back when gas was 30 cents-a-gallon. A family of five or six could easily fit into their confines of these crusiers.
The Vega, named after the fifth brightest star in the night sky, and a star just slightly more than 25 light years away, was undoubtedly one of the worst American cars made in the 1970s: along with the Ford Pinto and the American Motors Gremlin. These subcompact cars were designed to compete with the new small Japanese cars hitting the market. The VW Beetle, with its distinct, curved half-bubble shaped-body first arrived in the United States in 1949 and was a well-established site on the road.
But like Frankenstein, the Vega, the Pinto and a host of other subcompact cars must have been created out of Detroit’s grave yard of left-over body parts. The fact that American auto manufacturers could not come up with a viable homemade subcompact car was a distinctive black mark on American engineering. Here is the country, in the midst of a space race, that designed three types of space capsules, with the Apollo capsule capable of carrying three astronauts 240,000 miles to the moon and back, This happened six times with two missions doing fly arounds of the moon. But yet, we could not put a four-passenger car on the street for under $2,100.
It was about this time that the first successful heart transplant took place in South Africa. Dr. Christian Barnard was able to take the heart of a 25-year-old woman and put it into a 53-year-old man. Louis Washkansky lived for 18 days with the woman’s heart dying not of heart failure, but from pneumonia. I am sure he had no problems accepting her heart. If he had lived there is no way of knowing how it would have changed him. Also, there were no real ethical questions considering that the woman, Denise Darvall was killed in a car accident and had just died. If there has been a debate about gender mismatch in organ donors it has not become a public social debate as to which bathroom the recipient would use if he or she ever made it to Charlotte, North Carolina.
However, lopping the head off of a viable human being’s body to attach it to another body recently deceased sounds morbidly funny and alien. And I would imagine a lot more complicated than tethering a pumpkin onto a headless body. Not to mention if the operation is not a success has the doctor committed a crime: murder. Unlike the heart transplant, it is the heart that is diseased and malfunctioning. In a head transplant, there is nothing wrong with the head. It is the body that is malfunctioning. Maybe it should be called a body transplant.
And here again what would society say if such a swap was also a sex change. This head body transplant brings up a whole lot of ethical, racial and gender issues. Suppose a doctor was to put the head of an African woman on an the body of a man from Southeast Asia. What is this new person’s nationality, forget about race and gender. It really goes beyond creepy and freaky.
To perform these types of operations maybe, we should consult ancient Egyptians records. From their hieroglyphics, it looks like they may have had some experience with this. The way they removed and preserved body parts the mummy makers office was like a NAPA auto parts store.
Maybe all of this is head transplant talk is an effort to revive some sort of ancient alien procedure practiced on Egyptians four or five thousand years ago. It has to be that some ancient alien race was looking for a place to run a few experiments on the locals and leave. This would easily explain Anubis, the Egyptian god who was the protector of the dead. He had the head of a jackal. According to Egyptian mythology, jackals were often seen around cemeteries. Logically, putting two-and-two together, Egyptians came up with jackals were there because they were protecting the dead. I don’t know about that one. Maybe they were spirits of ancient aliens prowling around looking for body parts to make a god. Or maybe they were just hungry and looking for a mummy to chew on.
Then there was Horus. The god with the hawk’s head. This has to give new meaning to bird brain. This is a transplant I would pay to see. How you get a bird’s head on a human body is beyond me. Maybe just maybe, the “Ancient Aliens” series on the History Channel is starting to make some sense. Maybe Modern Marvels will take a crack at explaining the Vega.