Doctor’s plan for full-body transplants raises doubts even in daring China

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Six years ago, Wang Huanming was paralyzed from the neck down after being injured wrestling with a friend. Today, he hopes he has found the answer to walking again: a new body for his head.

Wang, a 62-year-old retired gas company worker, is one of several people in China who have volunteered for a body transplant at a hospital in the northern Chinese city of Harbin.

The idea for a body transplant is the kind of thinking that has experts around the world alarmed at how far China is pushing the ethical and practical limits of science. Such a transplant is impossible, at least for now, according to leading doctors and experts, including some in China, who point to the difficulty of connecting nerves in the spinal cord. Failure would mean the death of the patient.

The orthopedic surgeon proposing the operation, Dr. Ren Xiaoping of Harbin Medical University, who assisted in the first hand transplant in the United States in 1999, said he would not be deterred. In an interview, Ren said that he was building a team, that research was underway and that the operation would take place “when we are ready.”

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