Transference of personalities through organ donation?


It sounds like something straight out of a horror story.  In fact, I cannot recall the name of the book, but the plot still haunts me.  The story involved a father, his triplet sons, and the fiancee of one of them.  The eldest is a successful surgeon, following in his father’s footsteps.  The middle son is fairly responsible and has a beautiful fiancee.  The youngest is a scoundrel, who is jealous of his middle brother.  The eldest, trying to save a young boy, loses his hand in a sawing machine.  The father is extremely angry, as this affects the son’s ability to continue working.  On the other hand, the black sheep is wasting his life.  So, what does he do?  He forces the youngest son to give up his hand to his brother.  The son, of course, does not like it, but the father manages to amputate him and transplants the hand to the other son.  You can guess what happens next.  The evil hand takes over the new owner, causing him to do unspeakable acts that he would never have done.  In the end, the father realises this and chops off the hand.  (Sorry if I gave it away, but I can’t even remember the title of the book.)

This story came to mind when I read an article on the BBC about how some people would refuse a donor organ from a “bad” person.  In fact, a scientist stated that some organ transplant recipients felt that they had taken on some of the donor’s characteristics.  Though transference of personalities through organs cannot really be studied, and therefore, has been dismissed as a possibility, can we really be sure?  How can we explain these recipients’ feelings?  Is it the immunosuppressants making them feel different?  I have heard of family members saying that the recipients acted differently from before.

Of course, organ donation is done under completely anonymous conditions, so that the recipient cannot pick and choose who their donors are, much less, know their personalities.  But, I wonder, has anyone ever gone back to find out something about their donors, especially, if they ever experienced a change in personality?  That would be a very interesting research topic.  It may sound frivolous, but if there is any truth in it, would it change the transplant programme in any way?

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