Aussie brainwashed by kidney cult, says mum

AAP, Australia/June 4, 2007

A Sydney member of a controversial religious group plans to donate a kidney to a Canadian woman he barely knows, as a way of expressing his faith in God. But Ash Falkingham's plan has hit a legal roadblock, with the Toronto hospital scheduled to perform the operation questioning if he has been coerced by the Jesus Christians, a group dubbed "the kidney cult".

Nineteen of the group's 30 members in Kenya, Britain, United States and Australia have donated a kidney as part of their desire to "live selflessly", ABC Television's Australian Story reports tonight.

Mr Falkingham, 22, believes the group, led by guru David Mckay, is simply following the true teachings of Christ.

"The Jesus Christians believe that what Jesus said, he meant," Mr Falkingham said.

"I decided to do it (donate a kidney) because I like positive things that can be done to help people.

"And I also saw that they (other members) weren't really affected by the operation."

Mr Mckay decided kidney donation was the "ultimate" expression of faith after seeing the film A Gift of Love, the true story of a boy who donates a kidney to his grandmother.

Mr Falkingham joined the group three years ago, and since then his mother and stepfather have been trying to rescue him.

His mother, Kate Croft, said donating an organ to a complete stranger was "shocking".

"I was living in a world of aghastness," Ms Croft said of discovering her son's plan.

"I would say it (Jesus Christians) is a cult.

"I would say it's a sect.

"I would say it's madness."

Ms Croft said Mr Mckay had "brainwashed" her son.

When Mr Falkingham first joined the group contact with his family was limited to email.

"It seems like it's part of Mckay's practice to make the new recruits cut off their ties with their friends and family," Mr Falkingham's stepfather, Nick Croft, said.

Mr Croft also accuses the Jesus Christians of draining his step-son's bank account - although Mr McKay says every member willing puts their money into a "common fund".

Mr Falkingham has to travel to Canada for the operation because "non-directed" kidney donations are banned in Australia.

He said under Australian law he would be required to have a long-term friendship with a recipient before donating.

He barely knows the Canadian recipient, Sandy, who he met online through the website Living Donors.

The operation was scheduled for April 30, but was delayed after the Crofts got in touch with the provincial health authority in Ontario.

"I pointed out that later on, Ash might feel that they were responsible for not picking up that he was being coerced into this," Mr Croft said.

Toronto General Hospital has now appointed a psychiatrist to determine whether Mr Falkingham is capable of giving informed consent, and whether he is under "undue influence".

"Hopefully it's not the end of the whole thing," Mr Falkingham said.

"People might see me as ... young and naive and idealistic ... (but) I see it as a small thing.

"There are six billion people on the planet and helping one, I think it's just human nature."

After more than 10 weeks in Canada, Mr Falkingham is still waiting to hear whether the transplant will be approved.

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