TV documentary follows extraordinary tale of the Torbay man who is a ‘human cyborg’

Peter with his surgeon and assisting nurses.Peter with his surgeon and assisting nurses.

A Torquay scientist’s journey to become the world’s first ‘human cyborg’ is the subject of a fascinating TV documentary.

Dr Peter Scott-Morgan, 62, was given two years to live when diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2017.

The Channel 4 programme has followed his progress over two years, showing how, working with Torbay NHS staff, he has used pioneering medical techniques, technology and engineering to stay alive.

Peter, who lives in Torquay with husband Francis, is an internationally renowned robotics scientist.

Dr Peter Scott-MorganDr Peter Scott-Morgan

After growing up watching Dr Who and Star Trek, he studied robotics, gained a PHD and has written a book on robotics.

He refused to accept his fate and mapped his own future combining radical surgery with artificial intelligence and robotic technology.

Peter said: “This was the NHS at its very best.

“Everyone involved went out on a limb for me, and I can’t stress enough the impact.

“I’m now almost totally ‘locked-in ’but, dare I say it, my quality of life is extraordinary.

“I have purpose, I’m having fun.

“I’m now not just surviving – I’m thriving.”

In the documentary, he explained: “Medicine has not been able to cure me but one of the things I learnt was that any problem could be solved if you were bright enough, brave enough and if you had enough access to really cool technology.”

Before he became fully paralysed, he used his own skills to develop a lifelike avatar of his own face to replicate facial expressions.

And further development is working on applying techniques involving a communication system wired directly into his brain.

Listening to Peter’s wishes, staff at Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust were keen to support his desire to live as full a life as possible, despite his prognosis and offer him a new lease of life.

Under the care of the trust’s highly skilled, medical professionals, Peter underwent two landmark sets of major surgery to pre-empt the inevitable effects of MND and prepare him to live with the impact of the disease.

Firstly, a triple-ostomy to fit stomas in to the bladder, colon and stomach.

This was to enable him to maintain nutrition and continue toiletry functions with dignity as his ability to eat and drink diminished.

This innovative surgery, although involving procedures carried out routinely for patients with a variety of conditions, was radical as the three procedures were carried out in a single operation.

It is believed never to have been performed simultaneously on an MND patient anywhere before.

Secondly, he underwent an elective laryngectomy.

This resulted in Peter sacrificing his voice in order to save his own life.

It allows him to continue breathing and to avoid contracting potentially fatal pneumonia.

In this landmark pre-emptive procedure Philip Reece, the consultant ear nose and throat surgeon, performed what is believed to be the first ever elective laryngectomy on someone with MND in the UK.

Peter has compensated for losing his voice via state-of-the-art technology. He communicates by generating his own voice, recorded before he lost it, via sophisticated computer software linked to a screen on which he spells out words using his eyes.

Dr Maree Wright, Associate Specialist in Anaesthesia at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It has been a privilege to be part of Peter’s journey and work together with many other professionals to give him the opportunity to push forward the boundaries whilst living with MND.”

Mr Reece said: “It has been both thought provoking and a great privilege to know, work with and help Peter.

“What has been done has been a paradigm shift in the management in some of those with MND.

“It will not be the right way for some sufferers, but I believe it is for Peter and will help others in the future.”