HARBIN. NOVEMBER 2017. Sergio Canavero and Ren Xiaoping 任晓平 announced that the world’s first human head transplant was ‘imminent’. They had just completed an eighteen-hour rehearsal on two human cadavers, and now claimed to be ready for the real deal: the transplant of a human head from a living person with a degenerative disease onto a healthy, but brain-dead, donor body.
IN THE SUMMER OF 2018, the movie Dying to Survive 我不是药神 stormed China’s domestic box office and sparked public discussion about the accessibility of medical treatment in China. The movie, which some film critics called ‘China’s Dallas Buyers’ Club’, is based on the true story of a leukemia patient smuggling in cheap anti-cancer drugs from India to help impoverished fellow patients who could not afford the expensive medication offered by Chinese hospitals. In the film, the smuggler is a divorced seller of Indian health supplements who does not have cancer himself. Within two weeks of opening in July, it had already become one of the highest grossing films in the history of Chinese cinema. The story resonated with Chinese people as it depicted how quickly even a middle-income family could be dragged into poverty by medical bills, and how being struck by illness and poverty at the same time can be devastating.