Animal, mechanical, and me: Organ transplantation and the ambiguity of embodiment

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract

Organ donation and transplantation is a largely successful treatment used to replace failing organs. However, donation rates have never met the demand for transplantable organs. Biomedical researchers are exploring alternative sources from nonhuman animal donors such as pigs; improved biotechnological solutions such as total artificial hearts; and 3D printed organs developed from the recipient’s own cells. These solutions are in various stages of development, and they may or may not prove viable in terms of cost, functionality, and/or compatibility with the recipient’s body. In this chapter, I ask not about the viability of these proposed solutions, but rather, about the acceptability of the various technologies to potential recipients. Simply put: were these organ transplant alternatives to become available, would patients agree to them? Analyzing answers from focus group interviews and surveys, I use the responses to show that individuals imagine these various technologies as familiar or foreign, self or other, clean or dirty, and so on. People envisage that using different materials will certainly affect their bodies but also their subjectivities. New biotechnologies are raising questions about altering subjectivity through body modification, and the answers to these questions demonstrate ambiguity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Body and Embodiment
EditorsNatalie Boero, Katherine Mason
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Chapter10
Pages165-181
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780190842475
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • organ donation
  • organ transplantation
  • xenotransplantation
  • implantable medical devices
  • body modification
  • subjectivity alteration
  • 3D bioprinted organs

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