Donations are being made to fund Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero's controversial head transplant surgery, his first patient Valery Spiridonov has confirmed. Canavero hopes to perform the first-ever full body transplant in 2017 and estimates it will cost £6.4m.
Earlier this year, Canavero said he had been contacted by a host of wealthy tycoons looking to extend their own lives. Speaking to Italian website LaPresse.it, Canavero said he had found "dozens of sponsors ready to finance the project".
Now, Spiridonov has confirmed major donations have started to pour in for the surgery, which will see his head removed from his own body and placed on that of another. He told the Daily Mail: "He [Canavero] received several offers, mainly those were people who contacted him through me, because I'm widely seen on the internet. They first contacted me, and then reached out to him." He could not confirm reports they had managed to raise £6.4m.
Spiridonov, who suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a spinal muscular atrophy which will eventually kill him, said he was still planning to go ahead with the surgery (if it ever happens), despite other professionals warning of the potential dangers. Hunt Batjer, president-elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons, said the surgery was a "fate worse than death". "I would not wish this on anyone. I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death," he told CNN.
Spiridonov said: "If I manage to replace my body and if everything goes well, it will allow me to be free of the limitations I am experiencing. I am not rushing to go under the surgeon's knife, I am not shouting - come and save me here and now. Yes, I do have a disease which often leads to death, but my first role in this project is not that of a patient. First of all, I am a scientist, I am an engineer, and I am keen to persuade people - medical professionals - that such operation is necessary. I am not going crazy here and rushing to cut off my head, believe me.
"The surgery will take place only when all believe that the success is 99% possible. In other words, the main task now is to get support for Canavero from the medical community, to let him go on with his methods and to improve them within these two coming years."
The operation is expected to last two days, with the patient's head first being cooled down and removed. It will then be attached to another donor body and the spinal cords will be fused together. The muscle and blood supply would then be attached and the patient would be placed in a coma for about a month to prevent any movement.
Canavero said: "The head that is going to be transplanted gets frozen at 12 degrees. Then, we can proceed to sever both heads – including blood vessels, muscles and bones – and it begins the phase when the patient receives the new head. We are one step closer to extend life indefinitely because when I will be able to give a new body to an 80-year-old they could live for other 40 years."