Dr. Sergio Canavero unveils plans to perform the first human head transplant, says he believes he has a 90 percent chance of success. Deborah Gembara reports.
Valery Spiridonov is on a mission. The 30-year-old Russian, who has a degenerative muscle condition known as Werdnig-Hoffman, wants to become the first person ever to undergo a human head transplant. He's here at this meeting of American surgeons to watch as his doctor Sergio Canavero unveils a plan to perform the operation within the next two years (SOUNDBITE) (English) ITALIAN NEUROSURGEN DR. SERGIO CANAVERO SAYING: "The chances of this working are 90 percent. Of course there is a margin of risk. Both men, who have been in regular contact through video chats, believe the controversial procedure is Spiridonov's best hope. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ITALIAN NEUROSURGEN DR. SERGIO CANAVERO SAYING: "Western medicine has nothing to offer. Western medicine has failed." (SOUNDBITE) (English) VALERY SPIRIDONOV, THE RUSSIAN MAN WHO HAS VOLUNTEERED TO BE THE FIRST PERSON TO UNDERGO A HEAD TRANSPLANT SAYING: "If it goes good, I think I will get rid of the limits which I have today." Spiridonov is admittedly nervous, but he's also well aware that his condition is deteriorating rapidly. The Italian neurosurgeon says he's ready for his critics. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ITALIAN NEUROSURGEN DR. SERGIO CANAVERO SAYING: "I prepared myself not only scientifically, but also psychologically which is equally important in order to tackle all of these attacks from several fronts." Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr.Raymond Dieter. (SOUNDBITE) (English) Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr.Raymond Dieter, a former president of the International College Of Surgeons saying: "One of the first concerns obviously is can you just keep the brain alive while you are doing this type of procedure?" Canavero will need the support of his peers in order to move forward on the operation which could cost around 15 million dollars. Details about Canavero's plan are just now being digested by the medical community --- what is clear is that the procedure will introduce a host of new issues. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ITALIAN NEUROSURGEON DR. SERGIO CANAVERO SAYING: "It has implications that go well beyond religion, culture, the future, everything." He says the stakes could not be higher. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ITALIAN NEUROSURGEON DR. SERGIO CANAVERO SAYING: "There is risk in everything. If we stop taking risks, you know, relax, lie back and just wait for your death to come." If Canavero has his way, he'd like to perform the operation in December 2017.