Thursday, October 28, 2021


            I recently read that doctors have successfully transplanted a kidney from a pig to a human being. This is good news, especially if you already enjoy pushing your way toward the food trough.


            I also read, in the surprisingly amusing Stiff by Mary Roach, that in the early days of heart transplants, recipients felt that they were taking on characteristics of the person whose heart they received. She recounts cases where a macho firefighter is convinced that he received the heart of a gay man because he suddenly had the urge to wear dresses and other feminine attire. And a woman was convinced that she received the heart of a prostitute because she had a post-operative desire to have sex all the time. The author has doubts about the scientific basis of such claims, though there are a few lingering unexplained phenomena.


            This idea, she explains, may have been derived from the notion that the human soul resides in the heart, so a heart transplant is really a soul transplant. Roach describes several other location candidates in our quest to understand what is this thing called “soul,” including the brain, liver and pineal gland. Incidentally, in the Middle Ages priests did an experiment to learn whether animals had souls. They weighed a live fish, killed it, and weighed it again. Since the dead fish weighed less, they knew it had a recently departed soul, and they knew how much it weighed. The experiment was repeated using human beings in 1907, with similar results – though the subjects were not murdered to answer the weighty question.


            Roach even describes the work being done on brain transplantation, where you remove the living brain from a failing body and install it into a healthier body. Whether this is a “brain transplant” or a “body transplant” is up for debate, though I doubt anyone is actually debating it.


            But for the sake of argument, let’s just assume that doctors of the near future have figured out how to hook up the wiring and plumbing in order to make numerous kinds of transplantation work.  They are, after all, now doing face transplants. And while we are at it, let’s also assume that we can do transplants using donors from throughout the animal kingdom. And let’s assume, for the sake of our entertainment, that recipients do, in fact, receive qualities from the donors beyond the medical functions of the heart, kidney, liver, cornea or whatever. (I know, that’s a lot of assuming, which is one reason why it’s more fun being a writer than being a doctor.)


            So, the question is, whose organs would you want to get? I don’t just mean out of medical necessity. Would you want the disguising skin of an octopus? The owl’s ability to rotate its head? Jennifer Anniston’s hair? Donald Trump’s? But it’s more than getting this person’s great hair or biceps or running speed. Since it’s been proven (see above) that animals have souls and, perhaps, that those souls might possibly be transplanted with a donated heart, what heart do you want? Mother Theresa’s? Or would you want to get the heart of a rooster so you would become more cocky? How about the heart of a lion – preferably a male lion who gets to lie around majestically while the females do all the work? How about the tranquil heart of a cow – one who came from a good home? You may own a dog whose heart you would want. Or perhaps a playful otter.


            You probably don’t think this is a serious question, but it is . . ..

1 comment:

  1. It may be a serious question, but Monty Python came up with an exceedingly non-serious answer: