Organ donation, genetics, race and culture: The making of a medical problem (Respond to this article at http://www.therai.org.uk/at/debate)

Authors


Abstract

Within transplant medicine in the UK, the relationship between organ donation and ethnicity has been characterized as problematic, with a specific focus on the apparent reluctance of black and Asian people in Britain to act as blood and organ donors. In this article, we show that transplant medicine, in trying to work out a solution to this ‘problem’, has culturalized the issue by treating it as something that falls outside its own domain of practice, with racialized responsibility being entrenched through the mapping of donor pools to cultural difference. We urge a rethink of what is increasingly becoming a one-sided discussion. A concentration on ethnicity alone fails to take into account the ways in which low donation rates become a problem as a result of the specific ways in which transplant medicine in the UK has been configured and reconfigured over time, constituting different publics along the way. In order to understand the relationship between ethnicity and organ donation, it is important that we as anthropologists examine where and how the problem has in large part been forged (i.e., within transplant medicine), as much as where and in what terms that problem has been fixed in place (i.e., as a problem of black and minority ethnic publics).

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