Organ Donation and Transplantation: Body Organs as an Exchangeable Socio-Cultural Resource

Organ Donation and Transplantation: Body Organs as an Exchangeable Socio-Cultural Resource

Organ Donation and Transplantation: Body Organs as an Exchangeable Socio-Cultural Resource

Organ Donation and Transplantation: Body Organs as an Exchangeable Socio-Cultural Resource

Synopsis

From a background in ethnography, Israeli teacher Ben-David aims to understand the meaning of organ donation and transplantation from the perspectives of the three major partners involved: donors, recipients, and the medical teams. The participation of all partners, each with specific interests, enables human organs to become an exchangeable commodity with social significance.

Applying the resulting information from her comprehensive study, Ben-David assesses the roles played by life and death in organ donation within the Israeli Jewish community. She also examines issues of social legitimacy connected to organ donation in the Israeli society, institutionalization of transplantations, and transplantation as a trigger for transformation to hero status.

Excerpt

This book deals with life and death and the possibility of exchanging death for life in a social process. It explores the subject by concentrating on a process definable as both medical and technological, namely organ transplantation.

Organ transplantation is preeminently a socio-cultural activity, made possible medically by virtue of this quality. Apart from the medical and technical problems involved in organ transplantation, there are also social and ethical questions that arise in the framework of the society to which [donor] and [recipient] belong.

The discussion of organ transplantation concentrates on the exchange relations created as a result of the process. Transplants are effected at two levels, one concrete and the other abstract and symbolic. At the concrete level, one transfers an organ from one body, defined as [dead,] to another, defined as [living.] In an abstract and symbolic context, an exchange takes place between death and life. In fact, it is the concept of exchange that explains the mechanism by which the act becomes possible.

A central question arises about how human organs become exchangeable resources. In order to answer this question, it is necessary to clarify a number of matters involved in exchange systems in general. This clarification requires an examination of the limits of the theory of exchange, to provide a theoretical framework for a discussion of the transplantation of human organs. How do the parties to the exchange define the exchanged object? How is its value determined? Do all the parties to the transaction agree about these matters? Another set of questions that arises relates to relations that develop during the process of the exchange, or . . .

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