Personality changes after an organ transplant: Do foreign organs lead their own life?

A few days ago, we watched an interesting report on the Discovery Channel referring to a scientific article published by Paul Pearsall, Gary E. R. Schwartz, and Linda G. S. Russek in 2002.

The report was about a topic that is rather unpopular in school medicine, that is less spoken of, and that no one wants to take seriously: Cellular memory. An idea that proposes that organs have a cellular memory that may also be transferred during a transplant.

Horatio shakespeareHowever, it is not as described by Pearsall, Schwartz, and Russek in their cautiously compiled report on the “Changes in heart transplant recipients that parallel the personalities of their donors”. The report is based on 10 case studies selected from a compilation of 74 corresponding studies, which Paul Pearsall had accumulated before 2002. The ten cases partially describe astonishing changes in the personalities of the recipients of donor hearts, which were confirmed by friends, acquaintances and relatives.

  • A 56-year-old professor, who had received the heart of a 34-year-old policeman began to have dreams after the successful transplant. In these dreams, he sees flashes of light, his face becomes warm, and a person appears, who he describes as “Jesus”. The wife of the policeman, whose heart was taken posthumously, explains that her husband was shot in service. The murderer had shot him directly in the face. The last thing her husband must have seen was a flash of light. The police had a presumption of who the perpetrator was, but couldn’t prove it. The perpetrator is long-haired, with deep dark eyes, and he looks like Jesus on photos.Coincidence?
  • A 47-year-old man received the heart of a 14-year-old girl. His wife explained that her husband started behaving like a teenager after the transplant. He jumped up and down like a child when they went bowling. After the transplant, he also started vomiting after every meal, just like a teenager with an eating disorder. Also, according to his wife, the worst thing was that he had acquired a childish giggle, which made him extremely annoying. The mother of the girl from whom the heart originated reports that her daughter was a talented gymnast who suffered from anorexia, an eating disorder, where after eating, the subject induces vomiting. One of her daughter’s distinctive characteristics: a ridiculous giggle.Coincidence?
  • A 47-year-old metal worker became a lover of classical music after a heart transplant. Not only that, the white worker befriends various people of colour and becomes the favourite among his black work colleagues. His wife explains that he suddenly felt extremely at ease when among these colleagues, inviting them to his home, and driving her crazy with his new predilection for classical music, which he had no interest in before the transplant. The metal worker received the heart of a 17-year-old black boy who had been shot dead on the street by strangers. This boy would have had great career prospects as a musician: He is described as having been a lover of classical music and an expert with the violin.Coincidence?

Apparently, it is not rare for people to change their personality after a transplant. And if what Pearsall, Schwartz, and Russek suspect is correct, then there also appears to be a corresponding lack of willingness to discuss these personality changes of recipients of donor organs.  As in the example cited above, in the case of the professor who simply assumed that his dreams were hallucinations and did not talk to any doctor about it due to fear of being considered crazy.

The social pressure with regard to what is normal is so high that one must wonder how Pearsall, Schwartz, and Russek even managed to find a journal that would publish their report. However, the fact that this journal is based in the USA and not in Germany, is less surprising.

Pearsall, Schwartz, and Russek are trying to make sense of their results based on the dynamic energy systems theory. According to the theory, exchange of information and energy can take place between the heart and the brain. This hypothesis describes that the brain processes electromagnetic resonance information stored in the donor heart of the previously mentioned cases, which explains why the recipients of the donor hearts suddenly had information that led to changes in their personality.

Science has always been based on shifting boundaries. The research conducted by Pearsall, Schwartz, and Russek has the potential to shift boundaries, especially if it becomes possible to trigger open discussions about possible explanations of the empirical evidence presented by the authors in their report – and in addition – that are further underlined by the experience of many beneficiaries of donor organs.

Pearsall, Paul, Schwartz, Gary E. R. & Russek, Linda G. S. (2002). Change sin Heart Transplant Recipients That Parallel the Personalities of Their Donors. Journal of Near Death Experience 20(3): 191-206.

Persönlichkeitsveränderung nach Organtransplantation: Führen Fremdorgane ein Eigenleben?

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