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Off with his head!

By Russell Grenning - posted Friday, 5 January 2018


The good professor has confidently predicted that his head transplant procedure has a "ninety per cent plus" chance of success and I've wagered my hard-earned on horses in the past with a much less chance of success.

My research has uncovered a lot of scientific papers on this subject and, quite frankly, it is pretty gruesome. It was jolly interesting to learn that it would involve implanting an "electric paddle" in the recipient's head "because studies have shown that bursts of electricity help establish communication across a severed spinal cord."

Now I don't know about you but this sounds to me rather horrifyingly close to the process Mary Shelley described in her 1818 book, "Frankenstein" which told the tale of the young and idealistic Dr Victor Frankenstein creating a creature from left-over bits and pieces of human remains. I will never forget that classic scene in the 1930s movie when the good doctor flicks the switch and a huge burst of electricity brings the monster (played brilliantly by Boris Karloff) comes to life.

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The un-named monster is described by Ms Shelley as being "hideously ugly but sensitive and emotional" and 2.4 metres tall. I'm tall – but not that tall – and certainly sensitive and emotional but the thought of having bolts in my neck to attach my head to a new body doesn't appeal one little bit.

I am still haunted by the nightmarish memory of my dear old dad chopping off the head of the Christmas chicken in about 1957 and the wretched bird dashing frantically around, bloody spurting from its headless body. I must have told my therapist this story a million times because whenever I'm on his couch he begins his caring and sharing session with a curt, "Not the bloody chicken story again Grenning". And I'm paying good money for this!

I'm not one to rush into things. I'm naturally very prudent and cautious. I think I'll wait until Professor Canavero's first head transplant patients not just survive but prosper before I put my hand up. And I must check if the Medibank Private people would provide a whacking great rebate.

And speaking of caution I remember that when South African surgeon Dr Christiaan Barnard stunned the world with his first heart transplant in 1968, the patient only lasted a little over two weeks.

I couldn't even begin to do the things I have planned for my new body in a fortnight.

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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