Field of Science

Diana's kidney makes French woman speak English

Last week the Daily Mail gave us the shocking news that organ donors also donate their soul. And today they've followed up with a case report, just in case there were any doubters out there. This time, it's Princess Diana's kidney...

The evidence? Well, the lady in question got her kidney just two days after Diana died (there are about 4 kidney transplants every day in France). And she's roughly the same age and also female (which does improve the chances of the graft taking). Of course, there are a few minor problems. But to avoid them getting in the way of a good story, the Mail has buried them at the end of the article:
... the Paris-based Organ Procurement Organisation believes it unlikely that her kidney was used in a transplant so far from the capital.

A spokesman said: "Organs made available in Paris would go to locals because at any one time there are something like 1,000 people in Paris waiting for kidney transplants."

A spokeswoman for La Pitie Salpetriere Hospital said she did not know if Diana's organs were removed but added: "We have no record of Diana being involved in any form of kidney transplant.

"Because of bioethical laws and other considerations, it would have been impossible for this type of transplant to have taken place in a French hospital involving a British citizen, particularly when that person was the Princess of Wales."
Despite the fact that there is no way that this woman received Diana's kidney, strange things started to happen:
...she says something strange happened following her operation - she found herself peppering her conversation with English phrases.

"I found myself speaking English to my friends, something I don't normally do because I have no reason to," she says. "I cannot explain why I did this."
Well I can. It's a classic case of autosuggestion. It began with paramedic implanting the idea in her mind. And then it was reinforced by her own ruminations:
"On the way there a paramedic joked with me about the kidney coming from Princess Diana. He said I was going to receive Royal blood," Francoise told The Mail on Sunday.

"His words did make me think, though. I, like many others, was affected by Diana's death. She was a person I admired and at the time she was very much on my mind. I also think the timing was too much of a coincidence. Also the Princess had roughly the same build as me."

The Mail, of course, has another theory. They reckon it's down to cellular memory, and bring up the same 'experts' as last week. But today they have another, one Professor Candace Pert (who has a book and a lecture, and some self-help CDs she'd like to sell you). Needless to say, there's no evidence to support Prof Pert's theories. Ten years ago, she did publish a review article with her theories of Psychosomatic Networks - the idea that mental states and physical function interact. That's not implausible. In fact, there's good evidence for some kinds of interactions (although not the kinds that Prof Pert would like to believe).

But evidence for the idea that transplants carry with them the memories of the donor? There is not a thing. It's pseudoscientific hokum.

Refs

Busson M, Benoit G. Is matching for sex and age beneficial to kidney graft survival? Clinical Transplantation 1997; vol. 11, no1, pp. 15-18

Pert CB, Dreher HE, Ruff MR. The psychosomatic network: foundations of mind-body medicine. Altern Ther Health Med. 1998 Jul;4(4):30-41.

Pessione F, et al. Organ donation and transplantation in France in 2006. Médecine/Science | Numéro Double Août Septembre 2007; Volume 23 n° 8.

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