Head transplanted on a body - who is this person

In a transplant situation normally person A receives a part of person’s B’s body and if all goes well person A walks out of the hospital.

There are some scenarios that one can come up with however where it’s not sure who is leaving person A or B and the legal implications that would seem to arise from it.

One such would be a head of person A attached onto the body of person B, presumably the other parts of these formally individuals are no longer functioning. Who is this person?

What if the left side of person A is attached to the right side of person B, now who is this person?

There seems to be a lot of legal ramifications in who this person is, and perhaps this question may arise as medical technology increases and more parts are able to be transplanted, perhaps parts of the brain may one day be on the list of transplantable organs, which really starts opening up this question.

Whose body it originally belonged to is entirely irrelevant. It’s the brain that counts - our hypothetical head transplant’s identity would be solely that of the head. The body is just parts.

Fusing together two lateral halves of two people is a bit more complicated, because you’d be fusing together hemispheres from two different brains. I can’t even guess how that would manifest itself. I suspect it would lead to massive psychological problems, even if the physical meld is done flawlessly.

Agreed - the part with the brain is the patient. There’s no controversy there.

That’s a really interesting scenario - people with split-brain conditions end up being inhabited by two distinct personalities, so a minimal case of lateral fusion would be just to repair their injuries after they’ve been split for a while - I agree, this sounds like it would be psychologically traumatic; something akin to possession by a foreign intelligence.

In practice, I don’t think it’d ever be possible to join hemispheres from different brains together - because although one brain is like another in terms of arrangement of structures, I believe the fine-detail wiring is a custom job for each individual - so connecting the right bits to each other might be just unachievable.

I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, it would be no different than conjoined twins. On the other hand…

Sorry, I don’t have a real opinion on this - I just wanted to get some cheap puns in. :stuck_out_tongue:

With the right training, McCoy could do it…

Do you need an answer fast?

Seriously, I don’t think you need to worry about this for a while. I don’t see head transplants becoming possible for quite a few years.

Hemisphere and Hemisphere, what is Hemisphere!?

Robert A. Heinlein wrote a book on just this subject - the brain of a man was transplanted into the body of a woman. “I Will Fear No Evil”

Even that scenario appeared in an original-series Star Trek episode too.
(“Turnabout Intruder” IIRC)

That wasn’t a brain transplant though, it was basically a soul swap between Kirk and a crazy woman.

I think this is a pretty good answer. Does it have to be one person? Are conjoined twins considered one person in law? Is there any record of half of a conjoined twin committing a crime, but both halves being punished? :stuck_out_tongue:

I’d like to add that we are not simply brains in a body. Our bodies are part of our brains, both in the sense that our nervous system permeates our body, and in the sense that the body is the brains interface with the world.

Yes; but they are more generic, less “us” than the brain. We need a body for our minds to function properly, and gender does matter because of the hormones; but outside of that you could probably swap brains between bodies with few or no direct* mental effects.

  • By that I mean that it wouldn’t screw you up mentally for biological reasons; you’d still no doubt be traumatized to wake up and discover you look completely different.

Great, just great! :rolleyes: It isn’t enough that trans people are born to a life of suffering, now you want to artificially make more? Gee, thanks, Bob. No, seriously, on paper it must have seemed like a nifty idea to a science fiction writer. In the light of concrete experience I’d like him to know there’s nothing nifty about it.

Well, it is an old novel; not nearly as much was known about the phenomenon then as now.

Yes, because science fiction writers are just hacks looking to expound on a cheap idea. No possibility that some hack pounding away for the pulp mags could have treated a subject with sensitivity or insight.

(On the other hand, I haven’t read the book. Maybe he was a jerk about it, I dunno.)

You know, I wonder about that. Perhaps with younger bodies that would be more true.

A few years ago I had some cavities filled; I didnt even know I had them as the pain developed so slow that I adjusted. After they were fixed, my life became much more pleasant; I wasnt aware of how much I was compensating subconsciously.

The same applies to hip pain. I made some dietary adjustments and cut out almost all gluten products. That alleviated some constant stomach pain(which even woke me at night). It also made me tired during the day;, it also irritated my hips and knees. I didnt realized those two were related.

And thats the key: I am(was) used to those things. They bothered me badly enough. Someone lacking the neurological attenuation could wake up from the operation in absolute agony.

Everyone is pathological in some way. One person might have asthma, another has arthritis. My wrist hurts in cold weather. I broke it once, and the pain doesnt just belong to the body, it belongs to my brain. Some other brain could be wholly unprepared to deal with it.

Though it follows the head around, tinnitus is another example. I’ve had it my whole life; it doesnt bother me overly, though it is omnipresent. Other people are tormented by theirs.

Maybe they’d wake up in continual, unceasing orgasmic state.

The sum of a person isn’t whose body parts he has, but whose thoughts and memories he has. And the brain would contain those memories, so it seems natural to assume that the person whose head it was is the new person, post-operation. Transplanting my head onto someone else’s body wouldn’t suddenly imbue me with that body’s thoughts or memories.

But anyway, if you’re too skeptical to buy this explanation, why couldn’t you just ask them who they are?

After about 20 minutes or so it’s not really that much fun anymore :wink: