March 13, 2006
One in Ten Transplant Patients ‘Inherit Personalities of Their Organ Donors’
By RACHEL ELLIS
A LEADING scientist will claim this week that he has proof that patients who undergo major organ transplants can inherit the personalities of their donors.Gary Schwartz, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, says he has details of 70 cases where this controversial phenomenon has occurred.
And he will argue that it affects at least ten per cent of people who have a heart, lung, kidney or liver transplant. The theory that personality and character traits can be transferred via an organ transplant has existed for some time, but most scientists have ridiculed the notion.
Professor Schwartz now claims to have evidence that in the most extreme cases patients adopt a donor's taste in food, take up the same interests and pastimes as a donor, and even develop talents that a donor possessed. In one case, outlined opposite, a woman who had been health-conscious and calm began craving fast food and became aggressive, just like the biker whose heart and lungs she received.
In another, a seven-year-old girl had nightmares about being killed after being given the heart of a girl who had been murdered.
Professor Schwartz will present his findings at a holistic living conference in London next weekend, titled Icons of the Field. Critics put such events down to chance, the trauma of the surgery or the side-effects of the drugs that transplant patients have to take.
But last night Professor Schwartz, who is also a professor of medicine, neurology, psychiatry and surgery and has published more than 400 scientific papers, said that all transplant patients should be warned that there is a chance they will inherit the personality of a donor.
'It is a big ethical question, but I believe transplant patients should be told there is a possibility that they will take on a donor's characteristics,' he said.
'Then they can have a choice. They can decide what is important to them: being active and being with their family, but with the chance that they might take on some traits of the donor that they might not like. Our research shows that about ten per cent of patients will inherit some of a donor's characteristics. However, it may be higher because most patients are afraid to share their experiences.
'I don't want to frighten people, but to make it more acceptable for them to share what is happening to them.
If this is a real phenomenon, we shouldn't ignore it and it requires further scientific study.' Professor Schwartz's claims are based on the theory that all major organs develop a certain amount of memory. When they are transplanted, this memory can be transferred-from one person to another.
He explained: 'When the organ is placed in the recipient, the information and energy stored in the organ is passed on to the recipient.
'The theory applies to any organ that has cells that are interconnected.
They could be kidneys, liver and even muscles. The stories we have uncovered are very compelling and are completely consistent with this systematic memory hypothesis.' Since starting his research in the Eighties, Professor Schwartz has attracted widespread criticism from the medical establishment.
In one startling experiment, he claimed to prove that consciousness lives on after we die. He studied a man called Montague Keen, who vowed to communicate with his wife from beyond the grave. After Mr Keen's death from a heart attack in January 2004, some scientists, including Professor Schwartz, claimed there was strong evidence that Mr Keen had succeeded in proving there was an afterlife.
In the year to March 31, 2005, almost 3,000 major organ transplants were carried out in the UK, including 1,783 kidney swaps, 656 liver transplants and 290 heart replacements. Most of the organs were taken from 752 people who died, but more than 1,000 kidneys were donated by living people, often relatives or friends of the recipients.
In the UK, more than 13 million people 22 per cent of the population are on the NHS Organ Donor Register, and about 6,600 patients are awaiting transplants. Last year more than 400 died while on the waiting list.