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Sociology: Research


Paper Details

Author: Gillian Haddow

Title: Organ transplantation and (dis)embodiment

Year: 2000

ISBN: 1-900522-85-3

This paper argues that cadaveric organ transplantation offers new insights into the sociology of the body. It suggests there exists ambivalence about the nature of ‘embodiment’ due to differing perceptions of the relationship between personal and corporeal identity; whether individuals ‘have’ a body or ‘are’ a body. Although Cartesian Dualism is compatible with the rhetoric of transplantation, a holistic, integrated view also exists leading to difficulties in organ donation and integration. Organ transplantation also illustrates that although it is important to examine individuals’ experiences of being embodied it is also equally significant to consider beliefs about (dis)embodiment. An overview of the social, political, legal and medical definitions of brain death (including a comparative analysis of Denmark, Japan and Britain) is given including an analysis of the obstacles brain death can pose in donation. The discussion ends with a proposal that biological and social death are not necessarily co-existent; a person may be biologically alive, but socially dead or although a person may be biologically dead, they can continue to be socially “alive” in their previous social world. I argue that this affects 1) the decision to donate 2) the interaction between medical professionals and bereaved relatives and 3) post-donation a desire to contact the recipient.