Living Organ Donation and the coordination of living organ donor work

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:42
Oral Presentation
Matthew STRANG, University of Toronto, Canada
Institutional ethnographers have employed the term ‘health work’ to describe the work people do to maintain their health/lives . I extend this area of IE studies and introduce the concept of ‘donor work’ to explore the work people do to be living organ donors. My project centers on the question: how do social relations coordinate the activities of living organ donation? Drawing on IE, I aim to provide a sense of how living organ donors’ lives are coordinated in ways beyond their own local experience of living organ donation.

The rate of organ transplants continues to rise in Canada, and as it does, so does the demand for more organs. Living organ donation has provided a viable alternative to cadaveric donation, and has become a central way of acquiring organs for transplantation. Living organ donation transplantation surgery enables the health of the organ recipient at the expense of the living donor’s own acute, and potentially long-term, health. Living organ donors undergo major surgery and yet are never considered patients throughout the donation process, as they are only ever understood as ‘donors’. Through observational forms of inquiry, interviews and personal reflections, I explore the embodied and sensory practices of the everyday of living organ donors, throughout the donation process. I highlight how donation and transplantation are coordinated through donor embodiments. Specifically, I detail the ‘donor work’ that living organs do to be donors. Donor work is a complex form of labour that takes shape through body work, institutional work, health work, boundary work and/or emotional work. The work is done in multiple settings, as is the overall coordination of living organ donation. I posit by focusing on the interplay among these bodies and these spaces unacknowledged aspects between the coordination of living organ donation and donor work are made visible.