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Is organ transplant wrong in the eyes of God?

Published:Sunday | April 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Organ transplant surgery in progress.

Dr Georgio Piccolo hails from Bologna, Italy. He is an economist, but foremost, a bioethicist who studies the application of natural and spiritual laws in our daily lives.

He had gone to the right place: Ateneo Pontifico Regina Apostolorum, in Rome, to learn more.

The two-year programme in bioethics boasts notable professionals in the legal, medical, educational and pastoral fields and it is on the grounds of this prestigious institute that we met and discussed a number of subjects, including abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, homosexuality and organ transplant.

Piccolo jokingly referred to himself as a "failed atheist", after embracing secularism for decades. He is now an unapologetic Catholic but still questions Church doctrines.

Today, organ donations weighed heavily on him. Is it ethical? Are there spiritual laws being broken when we donate or accept organs from a donor?

These are complex questions riddled with social, economic, moral, and spiritual implications. It is a highly charged area that Piccolo was willing to take on.

"Your actions must be in accordance with natural or spiritual laws," he said. "You cannot do something that is innately wrong and expect a good outcome."

Piccolo was referring to the altruism surrounding organ donation. He went further, calling the practice "suicide of the soul", adding that ignorance of any law, far more spiritual law, will not expiate our transgressions.

He cited the work of Dr Paul Byrne that challenges the wisdom of organ donation. Piccolo's uncompromising philosophy is rooted in what he viewed as the "flawed" Harvard Protocol of 1968 that introduced a new way of determining the moment of death.

"This study, under pressure from interest groups, stated that a person is dead when the brain no longer functions." He denounced the wilful manipulation of facts and begged the question: "If the Harvard medical study is true, why do doctors in Europe administer two injections - one to induce paralysis and the other for pain - before an organ is removed? An organ from a cadaver is useless."

Based on these procedures, Dr Piccolo argued that organs are removed before actual death, and that silent anguish experienced by the donor is transferable to the recipient.

He conceded that while the exact moment of death is elusive, cardio and respiratory activity is active even after the brain dies. This he attributed to the soul or life force that permeates every limb, cell and organ.

Through his theological and spiritual lens, he adopted a position that seemed to be supported by science, stating that transplanted organs carry imprints of the donor.

"How else can one explain the recipient's newly acquired tastes, talents and proclivities, once enjoyed by the donor?" he asked, concurring that cell memory theorists were on to something.




One article, 'Can an organ transplant change a recipient's personality?' by Lizette Borreli, cited a study at the School of Nursing at the University of Hawaii that supported Piccollo's belief that medicine is delving into areas better left alone.

Borreli wrote: "Researchers sought to evaluate whether changes experienced by organ transplant recipients were parallel to the history of the donor. They focused on 10 patients who received a heart transplant and found two to five parallels per patient post-surgery in relation to their donor's history.

"The parallels that were observed in the study were changes in food, music, art, sexual, recreational, and career preferences in addition to name associations and sensory experiences.

"In the study, a patient received a heart transplant from a man who was killed by gunshot to the face, and the organ recipient then reported to have dreams of seeing hot flashes of light directly on his face.

"Aside from scientific studies, there have been several real-life cases that support the cell memory theory. Claire Sylvia, a heart transplant recipient who received the organ from an 18-year-old male that died in a motorcycle accident, reported having a craving for beer and chicken nuggets after the surgery.

"The heart transplant recipient also began to have reoccurring dreams about a man named 'Tim L.' Upon searching the obituaries, Sylvia found out her donor's name was Tim and that he loved all of the food that she craved, according to her book, A Change of Heart."

Vindicated by recent findings on the subject, Piccolo further bolstered his argument by questioning the high dosage of anti-rejection pharmaceuticals that are given to organ recipients.

"Every one of these recipients die from cancer at some later stage," charged Piccolo, "this proves that God created us as unique beings. Nothing should be done to tamper with this sanctity."

I felt that Piccolo was on to something, and I veered into the indigenous religious practice of removing organs of learned people when they were supposedly dead. Could it be that these practitioners knew that organs are receptacles of a person's memory?

Piccolo acknowledged the importance of understanding this occult practice. And as if to reassure himself that our discourse was relevant today, as it was yesterday, he cited Greek legends that cautioned that the body of the dead should be guarded for three days; and that Jesus' tomb was also secured for that length of time.

"Just maybe to ensure that death has really occurred and to prevent the removal of parts of the body for esoteric use," was his guess.

Although Piccolo conceded that more research is needed to determine the properties of the soul, he was convinced that organ transplant is a dubious practice on multiple levels.

"It is highly questionable from a spiritual viewpoint, but even on a material and moral level, it is the most heinous practice, surpassing drug trafficking in monetary gains.

"Organ trafficking rakes in tens of millions of dollars, whether its source is China, Romania, or Turkey, and it is second to none in its callousness and inhumanity."

- Dr Glenville Ashby is the president of Global Interfaith CouncilFeedback: or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby