Disabled man volunteers for first head transplant in Vietnam

By Ha An, Phuong Trang   August 11, 2016 | 12:09 am PT
An out of body experience: pushing the limits of bravery and medicine.

Pham Sy Long, 28, has volunteered to become the first person in Vietnam to undergo a full head transplant.

Long attended the National Coordination Center for Organ Transplantation in Hanoi on Wednesday to sign a consent form in which he declared he is willing to become Vietnam’s first head transplant volunteer.

Long said he had been thinking about this day for the past four months after he knew the world’s first human head transplant could become a reality next year.

At the age of 15, Long fell out of a tree. He cheated death, but the horrible accident severely damaged his spinal cord leading to total paralysis. He has been undergoing medical treatment and physical therapy for the past 13 years without success.

Despite his family’s strong objections, Long is determined to give it a try.

“My son has been persuading me to let him do it. I think this is a 50/50 chance. If my son is out of luck and the head transplant is not successful, he will donate his organs,” said Long’s mother.


Pham Sy Long had his picture taken with doctors at the National Coordination Center for Organ Transplantation in Hanoi. The 28-year-old man, who is wheelchair-bound, has volunteered to undergo Vietnam's first head transplant with the hope that the operation will allow him to walk again. Photo by VnExpress.

“Vietnamese law does not include regulations about head transplants, or more precisely, body transplants,” said Prof. Trinh Hong Son, head of the national organ transplantation center.

The center has so far recorded five to six donors who have volunteered to undergo head transplants, said Son, adding that Vietnam is unlikely to carry out the transplants in the next few years as they will involve extremely advanced surgical procedures.

The world’s first experimental transplant, due to be carried out in 2017 by Italian surgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero, is expected to involve over 150 doctors and nurses and take up to 36 hours.

“After the world’s first head transplant, Vietnam will ask the surgeons to come to the country and share their expertise,” Son said.

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