Surgical, ethical, and psychosocial considerations in human head transplantation

Allen Furr, Mark A. Hardy, Juan P. Barret, John H. Barker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Transplanting a head and brain is perhaps the final frontier of organ transplantation. The goal of body-to-head transplantation (BHT) is to sustain the life of individuals who suffer from terminal disease, but whose head and brain are healthy. Ideally BHT could provide a lifesaving treatment for several conditions where none currently exists. BHT is no ordinary experiment, to transfer a head to another body involves extraordinarily complex medical challenges as well as ethical and existential dilemmas that were previously confined to the imagination of writers of fiction. The possibility of replacing an incurably ill body with a healthy one tests not only our surgical limits, but also the social and psychological boundaries of physical life and alters what we recognize life to be. The purpose of this target article, the complementary manuscript focused on immunological issues in BHT, and the accompanying Commentaries by scholars and practitioners in medicine, immunology, and bioethics is to review major surgical and psychosocial-ethical and immunological considerations surrounding body-to-head transplantation. We hope that together these ideas will provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the possibilities and challenges associated with BHT and initiate professional discussion and debate through which this new frontier in medicine is considered and approached.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-195
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Surgery
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Composite tissue allotransplantation
  • Ethics
  • Frontiers in surgery
  • Head transplantation
  • Vascularized composite allografts reconstructive transplant surgery


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