-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, June 19 (HealthDay News) -- 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 behaviors 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
"This suggests an interesting intuitive belief -- that behaviors 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 release.
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
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 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, kind person, philanthropist,
thief, gambler or murderer.
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 behaviors of their donor.
The study, published in the May/June issue of
Cognitive Science, revealed that the participants cared more
about having a donor with a personality and behaviors 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 noted.
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 behavior than
Americans did, the results showed.
"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 are."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about
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