Assembling organ donation: situating organ donation in hospital practice

Journal Article by Dr. Sara Bea – Project Alumna

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In this article I argue for the need to situate deceased organ donation in and as a hospital practice. This study puts the spotlight on the practical conditions that enable and emplace organ donation in the hospital setting. The analytical move serves the political purpose to inform and interrogate dominant policy framings intended to address the problem of organ shortage. I present an ethnographic investigation that draws upon a Science and Technology Studies (STS) approach to make visible the sociomaterial arrangements that bring together people, things, and politics in the assembling of organ donation at a Catalan hospital. A progressive and indeterminate process which might fall through and become disassembled at any given time. This, as I explain, challenges current opt-out policy that unnecessarily reduces donation to an individual choice to be decided upon in life. Instead, and drawing on ethnographic materials, I propose a situated and relational understanding of organ donation: an embedded health care and procurement practice enacted as a collective accomplishment. I conclude that (more) responsible donation policies need to be informed by, and attuned to, the situated practicalities and enduring tensions that condition and constrain the assembling of organ donation at the hospital setting.

Bea, Sara. 2020, ‘Assembling organ donation: situating organ donation in hospital practice’, Sociology of Health & Illness, vol. 42, no. 8, pp. 1934-1948.