Organ Donor Cards As Effectual Artifacts

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:39
Oral Presentation
Annerose BÖHRER, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
Since the 1960s postmortem organ transplantation has kept influencing both research and practice of medicine and provides a lot of narrative material that shows how organ donation is being processed in a cultural sense. Due to the opt-in solution organ transplantation in Germany is strongly linked to its acceptance by the people. Thus organ donor cards have become part of our material culture. While on the surface they mark a decision process, in the context of organ donation the artifact and its handling become a mirror for an existential individuality, as well as for complex social processes. The presentation focuses on what people mean when they talk about “being a donor” (or not), use an object to make it “come true” and express their feelings and attitudes in confrontation with the concept of donating body parts. The research is based on Latour´s considerations on non-human actors and combines artifact analysis, narrative interview and participant observation, as well as material of the DFG-funded project »'I would prefer not to'. Organ donation between unease and criticism« that provides material from interviews and focus groups. In the empirical data we can identify important aspects of organ donation and a broad range of emotions associated with the card – from a positive idea of being a hero to the deepest fears and doubts regarding ones value for the system: The idea of postmortem transplantation confronts us with our own mortality and physicality in a way that we would rather exclude from our emotional environment, while the concept of donation touches notions of solidarity and mutual help, thus, something we might feel obliged to. The “official” document helps to transform our attitudes towards organ donation into simple actions, gives a way to handle fear, pride or ambivalence in a true sense of the word.