Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 47 (2):240-256 (2022)

Brain transplants have long been no more than the subject of science fiction and engaging thought experiments. That is no longer true. Neuroscientists have announced their intention to transplant the head of a volunteer onto a donated body. Response has been decidedly mixed. How should we think about the moral permissibility of head transplants? Is it a life-saving/life-enhancing opportunity that appropriately expands the boundaries of medical practice? Or, is it a bioethical morass that ought not to be attempted? For the purposes of this paper, I set aside questions regarding the surgical operation’s technological plausibility so as to focus on very basic questions regarding personal identity and the morality of head transplantation. The analysis begins with an exploration of the embodiment of persons. It considers whether persons can be conceptually distinguished from all parts of their body, even if they cannot be physically separated from some parts without loss of personhood. It argues that in most cases replacing body parts with reasonably similar parts will not destroy the conditions for sustaining personhood. However, as I explore, the phenomenology of personhood is such that some physical changes may prove to be too significant to maintain personal identity successfully over time. Given such complexity and the significance of the costs involved, the moral permissibility of head transplantation likely depends on recognizing that persons may give permission to collaborate in common activities, including projects with which others deeply disagree, provided that they only utilize the services and resources of free and consenting others.
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DOI 10.1093/jmp/jhab045
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References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
The Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1797/1996 - Cambridge University Press.
Conditions of Personhood.Daniel C. Dennett - 1976 - In Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (ed.), The Identities of Persons. University of California Press.

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