Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death

Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death

Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death

Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death


Margaret Lock's "Twice Dead is a deeply moving book that raises critically important questions about life and death in the modern world. It is a masterpiece of comparative anthropology and will surely appeal to a wide audience-to people interested in ethics, anthropology, science studies, and studies of the body.--Bruno Latour, author of "Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies

This is an excellent and exceptional book in three distinct ways: first, in making us rethink the recent changes in our criteria for death; second, in the careful comparative anthropology of Japanese and North American attitudes to organ transplants; and third, in making us see clearly the connection between organ transplants and changing criteria for death. What we have often taken innocently as the progress of medicine is an intricate and complex story about the meaning of life and our body parts.--Ian Hacking, author of "The Social Construction of What?

"Twice Dead is a marvel of perfect tensions. While eschewing simple cultural dichotomies, it deftly balances the immediacy of interviews with deep historical reflection; its theoretical insights are razor-sharp, yet its spirit is unfailingly compassionate. Wise and eminently readable, Lock's superb book portrays how impersonal, modern technology compels us to grapple with the most intimate, age-old questions-the bonds between bodies and persons, the borders between the living and the dead.--Shigehisa Kuriyama, author of "The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine

In writing "Twice Dead, Lock has performed a magisterial act of scholarship. The text is all-inclusive, fair-minded, and based on the mostscrupulous use of the anthropological armamentarium. A must-read for doctors!--Richard Selzer, M.D., "The Exact Location of the Soul: New and Selected Essays


The exotic charm of another system of thought is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.

Michel Foucault, The Order of Things

In this book I show how brain death is associated with different sets of assumptions about what constitutes the end of human life in Japan and North America. I also highlight what conditions are thought by some to be as “good-as-dead” and ask if and when it is appropriate to make utilitarian use of body parts. Differing assumptions in the two regions yield different answers to these questions. They touch on boundaries between nature and culture, life and death, self and other, person and body. Medical science is undoubtedly one of the principal arbiters of these judgments, but it should not be thought of as inevitably determining decisions about human death.

Biological death is recognized in society and in law by the standards of medical science, but what exactly constitutes death of a body, and what does this death signify with respect to death of the person? Does irreversible brain damage count as biological death, even if on occasion signs of life remain in the brain and other parts of the body continue to function, albeit aided by medical technology? And if irreversible brain damage counts as biological death, does this mean that the person too has died? Moreover, does the law recognize brain death as human death? Only when consensus is reached on these points can a brain-dead body be thought of as cadaverlike and made available for commodification.

The position of the North American public, largely ignorant of the issues, remains obscure. Among North American physicians, brain death has been broadly recognized as an indicator of both biological and per-

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