'Secret' surgery to donate healthy organ

News.com, Australia/March 21, 2008

An Australian man refused permission to donate his kidney in Canada last year has finally handed over the organ in an operation in Cyprus.

Ashwyn Falkingham, 23, had planned to donate his kidney to Canadian woman Sandi Sabloff on April 30 last year but was refused permission after his mother questioned his ability to make his own decisions.

Kate Croft claimed her son had been unduly influenced by the group Jesus Christians into donating a kidney. Nineteen of the groups 30 members worldwide have been live organ donors.

Last night the 23-year-old successfully donated the organ to Ms Sabloff, at the Paraskevaidion Surgical and Transplant Centre in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Jesus Christians founder Dave McKay told NEWS.com.au "the operation was successful, and Sandi had passed five litres of urine in the first day".

But the operation, which was filmed by a Canadian television crew, was not without drama.

Mr Falkingham asked the head surgeon to keep the operation secret, fearing he would be prevented from donating his healthy kidney, Mr McKay said.

"Head surgeon George Kyriakides felt that he should at least explain the procedures to the mother, whom he felt must be worrying needlessly about her son's safety. So he insisted on phoning Kate Croft," Mr McKay said.

Mrs Croft then booked the next flight to Cyprus.

"When he (Mr Falkingham) learned that his mother knew of the planned operation, (he) asked her not to attend," Mr McKay said

After speaking with the surgeon, Mrs Croft was allowed to see her son. "Kate came in with the film crew's camera rolling and tearfully hugged Ash and said how proud she was of him," Mr McKay said.

Founded in 1982, the Jesus Christians are anti-materialistic and believe in voluntary poverty and communal living. Kidney donation is described by the group as a as a gift of love that implements Jesus's teachings.

But critics, particularly parents of members, call the group a cult and claim members are under undue influence.

Mr Falkingham has had only sporadic contact with his parents since joining the community four years ago. At the time of the failed Canadian donation he told The Australian he had freely handed over all his possessions to the Jesus Christians including money given to him by his parents to pay for TAFE fees, cameras, computers and textbooks.

Since joining the group he actively sought a person to whom he could donate a kidney. He found Ms Sabloff, a former Toronto sales executive who has suffered from chronic kidney failure for 18 years, on a website.

Mr McKay said active kidney donation was encouraged, but not a requirement of the church.

Mrs Croft denies that she actively stopped the Canadian operation from going ahead, saying that her son had asked her help.

She told The Australian she "knew that joining the group, sooner or later he would" donate.

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