Lord Soley (Labour)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to encourage brain donation to assist scientific research, including into degenerative brain diseases.
Donate your brain? I’d like to make two points here. You probably think they mean donate your brain after you die as this is the slant of the discussion (below) and what Baroness Seccombe clearly thought by mentioning that her husband donated his brain after he died from having two strokes, but this isn’t necessarily so. One does not have to die to donate a brain or brain tissue (also discussed below), although this is what the discussion is encouraging. For example, the removal of a cancerous brain tumour is a donation of brain tissue because I doubt anyone even thinks about what happens to it after their operation, but it’s donated to research. Secondly, there are a lot of people in various vegetative states living in hospitals and care homes with brain injuries, neurological diseases and neurodegenerative diseases that are being monitored for research purposes. It’s not research in a laboratory, but it’s scientific research nonetheless. These people have donated their brains while they are living because data about their medical treatment is being collected from them and they're powerless to protest.
And I wonder about the brains of the people who are doing this research and supporting it. I would like to tell a story that a colleague told me twice, as it’s so good it has to be repeated. It’s about a judge. A man who made his living from using his brain in an excellent fashion, or so you would image. One day, this judge was out driving in his car with his wife. He came to a road that was obviously swollen with water from recent rains. He looked at it and looked around for a sign warning of danger and because there was no notice advising not to use the road, he continued to drive ahead. He didn’t ask himself or think about where the road was leading. Further down this road, the car capsized in the flood and he lost his life. His wife managed to survive and sued the government for not having put up a warning sign. The point is that it was obviously dangerous, but the judge was unable to use his brain to think for himself. He had no common sense, not even for survival. He relied on others to point the way for him and that’s just what judges do. They rely on the lawmakers to tell them what to do (they merely interpret the law). I would bet that there are many other people like this judge sitting in positions of power. They basically just do as they are told. In fact, when I was being trained as a lawyer, I was often told to do as I was told (as I tended to do my own thing)! Is anyone doing research about this phenomenon? I doubt it because it serves the Illuminati (what I call the B’org).
Another point about this House of Lords discussion (copied in full below) is that they are promoting the benefits of drugs that will ensue from the brain research. They make orphan and ultra-orphan drugs sound like miracles. They’re drugs! Drugs are not the answer. They are simply the cause of more and new problems. But the UK government is obviously figuring out how to facilitate the drug industry. How is the government paying for this? Orphan drugs are extremely expensive. Keeping people in near vegetative existence is extremely expensive. I’ll give you a few true examples.
(1) A lady in her forties fell down a flight of stairs and sustained a severe head injury. She was operated on (expense, but some brain tissue was probably removed for research as I think it’s standard procedure), she was put on a feeding tube and given lots of medications that may be required for years (expense), she stayed in a hospital for a long time (big expense) and then moved to a care home (more expense) where she has full-time nursing care as she is unable to do anything for herself, including communicate.
(2) A baby was born with a neurological disease, but the medical profession managed to keep him alive for over twenty years (big expense). He cannot speak or do anything for himself including eating as he has a feeding tube. He ended up in a care home with twenty-four seven personal nurses and carers looking after him. In other words, he needs twenty-four seven care from at least two people constantly attending to his needs alone just to keep him alive (big expense).
(3) And finally, I’d like to mention another man on a feeding tube who was brought back to life after a head injury and cannot do anything for himself so lives in a care home (expense).
This is what brain research is doing. They are doing the same to older people in care homes. And they are doing it more and more often. They claim that people are living longer. A more accurate statement would be that the medical profession is keeping more people alive longer who otherwise would have died naturally (very expensive with questionable benefit to anyone but the B’org).
One final point from this discussion is that they are coordinating the research on an international level. So wherever you go, your records will follow you. Every time you have medical treatment (go to the doctor), data is being collected and stored in the computer for analysing. It’s all being used for research. See the documentary Human Swarm for evidence of this generally.
I don’t know about you, but I find all this extremely unsettling. Lord Soley mentions that heart donation used to be “quite emotionally difficult”. Now they can replace your heart with a plastic one. I would imagine that the patient I saw in a documentary getting a plastic heart installed is also on medication for life. Is this the road we are travelling? To a day when our brains can be replaced with plastic ones? As I often say, I think it is the road to humans becoming cyborgs. It’s the road that will lead to our death as a species. I guess I don’t agree that this evolutionary path is the right one and believe that we have a choice to follow another (or just stop where we are). The one we are following seems like the one the judge followed to his death. Well, I’m trying to post a sign of warning about this danger on my blogs. A notice that there are other safer alternate routes.
Finally, I’ve previously written about Alzheimer’s disease, what causes it and some rational ways to deal with the problem. Funnily enough, heart disease and neurodegenerative disease have been connected by researchers. I've heard of heart transplants, but are they also considering brain transplants? Drugs do not address the underlying problems, but rather, create an infinite number of possibilities for new drugs. C’est tout.
My Lords, as a nation we are deeply indebted to the many individuals who donate brain tissue. This donation enables vital research leading to new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. The Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research and research charities are all supporting work to encourage brain donation. The MRC network of brain banks is developing a strategy to encourage new donors and plans to hold a workshop in September this year.
Lord Soley (Labour)
I am grateful for that Answer. I remind the Minister that when we talked originally of heart donation many people found that quite emotionally difficult, but now it is much more common. There is something very similar with brain donation yet it is profoundly important, not only for general research but particularly for degenerative brain disease. The research bodies are very concerned to get people to donate where they do not have a family history of brain degeneration because they need comparative samples. Can the Minister do all he can to promote this? I donated my brain some time ago and so far it has not been returned marked “not fit for purpose”. [Laughter.] In all seriousness, this is a very important issue. It can bring great improvement to people’s lives and to scientific knowledge generally and I ask the Minister and his department to do all they can to promote it.
I endorse entirely the noble Lord’s ambition in this area. It is an extremely important area of tissue donation and contributes enormously to our understanding, particularly of neurodegenerative diseases. The network of brain banks I referred to has already begun work on its donation strategy, encouraging new donors to sign up for brain donation. Its plan is to target well characterised individuals, for example those in clinical cohorts, as, once donated, the tissue has lots of associated clinical information from life, which is highly useful to researchers. I know that a lot of the major charities are involved in promoting brain donation.
Lord Walton of Detchant (Crossbench)
My Lords, does the Minister recognise that, partly as a result of such donations but also as a result of major developments in genomic medicine, the individual genes responsible for a substantial number of degenerative brain diseases have now been identified; the missing or abnormal gene product has been found and, as a result, new treatments are coming on stream? Does he therefore agree that the rare disease advisory group now established under NHS England should be in a position to recommend, in collaboration with NICE, the prescription under the NHS of these so-called orphan or ultra-orphan drugs which are proving to be so effective in some of these conditions and which are now coming on stream in an increasing number?
My Lords, we are clear that there needs to be a mechanism to assess the clinical and cost-effectiveness of new drugs, particularly those designed to treat rare and very rare conditions. NICE will indeed be the body charged with doing that. It is devising a process by which it can do so that is quite distinct from its normal technology assessment methodology. As the noble Lord will appreciate, the drugs concerned here are of a different kind and order of cost from those which NICE normally assesses. The noble Lord is quite right that that is the broad process which will be adopted.
Baroness Seccombe (Conservative)
My Lords, my husband did not have some rare disease but, following two strokes, he became involved with a research project called OPTIMA. He was then monitored. It gave my family—and me particularly—great satisfaction to know that he left his brain for research, which they found extremely useful.
My Lords, I am glad to know that. It provides a telling and important example of how this can be done in a sensitive way, and in a way that best meets the requirements of researchers. If there is a possibility of planning in advance the donation of a brain—or, indeed, any organ—it is much easier for the family and gives the patients themselves much satisfaction.
Lord Naseby (Conservative)
Is my noble friend aware that a great deal of work is being done through the EMEA and, through that organisation, by a number of countries in Europe? As one who has raised the issue of orphan drugs before, can we, on this occasion, make sure that NICE co-operates with these other bodies and we do not start duplicating work across the whole of Europe?
My Lords, I am aware that NICE co-operates with its counterpart bodies not only in Europe but in other parts of the world; its work has an international dimension. As the same time, I say to my noble friend that NICE is seen as a world leader in its field. Many other countries look to NICE for the methodology that it adopts.
Lord Turnberg (Labour)
I am sure that the noble Earl is aware that Alzheimer’s disease is increasing in frequency as we all age, and is becoming a severe health problem. The Alzheimer’s disease association is certainly anxious for brains to be put into its bank, because it seems that there is the potential for a cure for this disease in a few years’ time. I suspect that the noble Earl is aware that the research that is done on these brains will be extremely helpful in that respect.
My Lords, I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg. Dementia is of course a particular focus for research using brain tissue. Also, there are many other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s, which could potentially benefit from this kind of research.
Photo Credit: Traumatic Brain Injury.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
We can help nature to heal us, but what the medical profession is doing has less and less to do with nature. They can’t put us back together again and never will. They are creating cyborgs, something totally different than the human being. It's creeping up on us with every seemingly justifiable medical procedure. Something to think about, don't you think?