Bioethics News

Chinese surgeon is planning a body transplant

Another Chinese scientist is stretching medical ethics to the breaking point. According to the New York Times, Dr. Ren Xiaoping of Harbin Medical University, is planning to do a body transplant. Several patients have already volunteered for the daring experiment, which involves attaching the head of a live person to the body of a cadaver.

At the moment the procedure seems impossible, as it seems almost impossible to reconnect the nerves in the spinal column.

But Dr Ren is eager to try. “I’ve been practicing medicine in China and overseas for more than 30 years,” he told the Times. “I’ve done the most complicated operations. But compared to this one, there’s no comparison … Whether it’s ethical or not, this is a person’s life. There is nothing higher than a life, and that’s the core of ethics.

Leading medical experts, even in China, have condemned the plan as reckless and unethical. “The Chinese system is not transparent in any way,” according to Arthur L. Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University. “I do not trust Chinese bioethical deliberation or policy. Add healthy doses of politics, national pride and entrepreneurship, and it is tough to know what is going on.”

And a medical ethicist at Peking University, Cong Yali, said in dismay: “I don’t want to see China’s scholars, transplant doctors and scientists deepening the impression that people have of us internationally, that when Chinese people do things they have no bottom line — that anything goes.”

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.