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Orchestrating Death: Organ Donation in Denmark and the USA

Carlsberg Foundation Monograph Fellowships

What

My book project is a comparative study of organ donation and transplantation in Denmark and the USA. Based on several years of anthropological field studies and interviews, I explore the experiences of donor families, organ recipients, medical staffs and policy makers. The book will also discuss significant national differences in organizing and communicating organ donation. The chapters of the book will deal with how organ donors, donor families and organ recipients are cared for in the clinic, how donation and transplant staffs handle the challenges of transplantation, and how policymakers and organizations establish public legitimacy using powerful donation narratives, such as for example “transplant heroes” and “gift of life”.

Why

No matter how much innovative medical technology develops, organ transplantation always depends on the willingness and dedication of the people taking part in donation cases. This book tells the stories of those people: The families who have lost a loved one; the intensive care staff handling organ donors; the organ recipients getting a new body part; the transplant staff caring for patients, and the policy makers developing and communicating organ donation. Considering the difficulty in gaining access to these medical domains and personal stories, the empirical data material of this book is unique in its potential and scope. Comparing Denmark and the USA, this anthropological book will contribute with new insights to the existing literature and to the international transplant community.

How

I will spend the 12 months writing the different chapters of the book and submitting the manuscript to an international publisher. Along the way, I will use my international network within academia and the transplant community to comment on my drafts to ensure the highest possible quality of the book. This grant provides a rare and much welcomed opportunity to focus solely on writing, and I plan to visit other research environments in order to gain inspiration and good advice on the art of writing from authors and researchers I admire. Thereby I will hopefully be able to produce a book of great significance and relevance that will be useful for an academic audience, for actors within transplantation and also for the general public.

SSR

Organ donation and transplantation deals with suffering and death. And also with hope. It is problematic that patients die on waiting lists and it is also problematic if the search for organs are too intense and the potential donors and their families are not met with the highest levels of respect and care in the clinic. Continuous ethical reflection and public accept and trust is of highest importance. Adressing these issues to a wide range of audiences and giving voice to the emotional experiences of donor families and transplant staff have always been a priority in my career as researcher. With this book, I can contribute even more to the debate on transplantation and address how we as humans and society handle organ donation and transplantation in the best way possible in the future.