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Keywords:

  • brain death;
  • enacting death;
  • intensive care unit;
  • multiple ontologies;
  • organ donation

Based on the fieldwork at two Norwegian Intensive Care Units, we wish to discuss the sometimes inconsistent manner in which death is handled, determined and made real by nurses and other healthcare personnel in high-tech hospital situations. These discrepancies draw our attention towards different ways of attending to the dying and dead and views about appropriate or inappropriate codes of professional behaviour. As we will argue below, the analytical tools developed by Annemarie Mol are useful for sharpening our understanding of the enactment of multiple ontologies of death as they are enacted within the ICU. Annemarie Mol and John Law’s notion of ‘ontological politics’ increases our awareness about the non-arbitrary way some but not other practices are considered self-evident whereas others are denigrated as muddled and illogical.