Despite criticism from the medical community, Dr. Sergio Canavero was going to attempt to fuse 33-year-old Valery Spiridonov's head onto the spinal cord of another body

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April 10, 2019 04:21 PM

A 33-year-old man suffering from a debilitating disease who volunteered to have his head transplanted onto another person’s body has pulled out of the experimental operation.

Valery Spiridonov has the muscle-wasting condition Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, which destroys muscles and nerves in the brain and spinal cord, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders. Feeling he had no other options outside of watching his body lose its ability for movement, Spiridonov signed up in 2015 to participate in the world’s first head transplant, conducted by colorful Italian surgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero, who would attempt to fuse Spiridonov’s head onto the spinal cord of another body.

“Here you have a patient who is dying, dying, dying every single day,” Canavero said of Spiridonov’s commitment to the surgery in an interview with Canada’s National Post in 2016. “What is going to happen if I do nothing?”

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The procedure was initially scheduled for 2017, but Canavero had to push the date back while he continued his preparations.

While Spiridonov hasn’t yet been able to change his body, he has changed his mind.

“I cannot wait for surgery forever and my condition seems stable,” Spiridonov, who now lives in Florida, told Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, per the Daily Mail. “I’m happy to say I’m married and I have a beautiful kid now and I’m in charge of my own company.”

Dr. Sergio Canavero

In late 2017, Spiridonov married computer expert Anastasia Panfilova, and the couple now shares a 5-month-old son who doesn’t appear to have inherited the disease, he explained to Good Morning Britain.

“I cannot leave them without my attention, even for a few months,” he said of the time he would be away from his family if he were to go through with the operation.

Panfilova reportedly wrote online about how the two lived in the same city and met professionally, but began dating after they recognized their chemistry, and that she has always been drawn to a man in a wheelchair.

“Such people are much deeper, feeling, faithful, kind-hearted, and also they are usually very smart,” she wrote, according to The Sun. “Isn’t that the main thing?”

Panfilova and Spiridonov did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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While a Chinese doctor claimed to have successfully transplanted the head of a corpse onto a cadaver in an 18-hour operation in 2017, Canavero’s surgery was met with much criticism — and horror — as the technology to conduct such an operation appears to be years away from ever becoming reality.

“I would not wish this on anyone,” Dr. Hunt Batjer, then president-elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons, told the Independent in 2015. “I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death.”

According to the National Post, Canavero — who did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment — claimed he still had a long list of volunteers to choose from for the procedure.

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