No heroics, please: mapping deceased donation practices in a Catalan hospital
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This thesis presents an in-depth ethnographic mapping of deceased donation in a Catalan hospital. A unique site in terms of leading edge technoscientific practices, high rates of donation and its consolidated specialised team of transplant coordinators (TCs). The thesis situates donation as an embedded medical practice and traces the practicalities and specificities of making donation a possibility at the hospital. The empirical accounts offer a distinctive contribution that complements and challenges existing social sciences literature about donation. The latter have predominantly focused on donation as a controversial practice through highlighting the emotional experiences of donors’ families and individual medical practitioners involved. This empirical investigation mobilises, and further develops, STS material semiotics tools to provide an account of donation enacted as both procurement and healthcare. Ethnographic insights illustrate the shifting processes of mutual inclusion and exclusion that underpin the trajectory of integrating donation as a routinized hospital practice, along the recurring set of enduring tensions. This is achieved by following the work of TCs along the stages of donor detection, evaluation, maintenance, consent request and organ extraction. Crucially, the analytical focus decenters the individual actors’ perspectives, broadening the scope of the inquiry and making visible the complex sociomaterial arrangements that take place, inside and outside the hospital, which are rendered as a gradual process of assembling donations. Families’ consent to donation is essential but it is decentered, it is neither that which starts a donation process nor the only factor that contributes to the assembling of a donation process. Unlike available anthropological and sociological studies of donation this work is not about documenting the reductionist transition from patient to donor, whole to parts, person to thing and denouncing the fall from subject to object reified in donation practices. The emphasis here is on tracing the overlap between donors as patients, thus the analysis shows the shifting enactments of the embedded donor/patient configuration, which includes the donor/body, donor/person and donor/corpse figures simultaneously along the donation process. The intervention of bodies as active entities is examined through a speculative and pragmatic elucidation on the situated and relational enactments of responsive bodies and organs. This thesis contributes to contemporary re/articulations of materiality and agency through the lens of distributed joint action and entangled actors from a nonanthropomorphic stance. The research also contributes to current policy debates in the UK, and in Scotland in particular, that propose to tackle the national problem of low donation rates with a legislative move to an opt-out system for donation. It offers robust empirical evidence to contest the dominant organ shortage problematisation that is reduced to the legal polarity of either opting in or out of donation. I suggest that questions about increasing donation rates cannot be restricted to the domain of individual choice as this excludes the situated medical practices that enable the choice of donation in the first place.