Some people say they would refuse an organ or blood donation that came from a
murderer or thief, a new study shows.
Many people believe behaviour and personality traits are tied to something
deep within a person. As a result, patients are often worried they will become
more like their donors, following a transplant or transfusion, the researchers
explained. For this reason, these patients prefer to receive organs or blood
from people who are a lot like them, the University of Michigan study found.
"This suggests an interesting intuitive belief -- that behaviours and
personalities are inherent, unchanging aspects of who they are," study co-author
Susan Gelman, a professor of psychology, said in a University of Michigan news
Study author Meredith Meyer, a research fellow in psychology, added: "People
dislike the prospect of any change in their essence -- positive or negative -- and
so any salient difference between the donor and recipient leads to increased
resistance to the transplant [despite the fact] there is no scientific model to
account for why transplants might lead to transference of features."
For the study, the researchers showed the study participants a list of
possible human donors. They were asked to judge whether they wanted a donor who
was of the same gender and sexual orientation and came from a similar background.
The participants also considered possible donors' ages and positive or negative
characteristics, such as high IQ, being a kind person, philanthropist, thief, gambler or
The participants were also asked how they felt about being a donor, and if
they believed a transplant would cause a recipient to adopt the personality and
behaviours of their donor.
The study revealed that the participants cared more about having a donor with
a personality and behaviours similar to their own than a donor's positive or
negative qualities. Organs or blood from a pig or chimpanzee were particularly
unpleasant for people to consider, the findings indicated.
Feelings about blood transfusions were just as strong as views on heart
transplants, the study authors pointed out.
"Since blood transfusions are so common and relatively straightforward, we
had expected people might think that they have very little effect," Meyer
The study participants included people from the United States as well as
people from India, where some subcultures hold deep-seated beliefs about
contamination from transplants. Those from India had stronger ideas on how
transplants would affect their behaviour than Americans did, the results
"From the medical point of view, this is beginning to look like a promising
way of addressing donor shortages," study co-author Sarah-Jane Leslie, an
assistant professor of philosophy at Princeton University, said in the news
release. "But these results indicate that potential recipients could struggle
with the belief that accepting such a donation will profoundly change who they
The US National Library of Medicine has more about organ