Repaying the Gift of Life: self-help, organ transfer and the debt of care

Matthew Barry Sothern, Jen Dickinson

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    23 Citations (Scopus)


    A total of 2,552 organs from deceased donors were transplanted in the UK in 2009, yet more than 1,000 people die each year waiting for an organ transplant. The metaphor of the ‘gift of life’ remains the rubric under which increasing the availability of organs for transplant is commonly organised. Like all gifts, the ‘gift of life’ must be reciprocated. Reviewing the advice given by, and for, transplant recipients in self-help and autobiographical literature aimed at those waiting for or who have just received a new organ we argue that reciprocity is circumscribed through projects of ‘care’ articulated at a range of scales including the organ, the self, the donor and the transplant community itself. We argue that the scarcity of organs available for transplant is used to compel recipients into adopting practices of self-care, to embodying the promise of the gift of life and to articulate a set of ethical responses to the new geography of embodiment that emerge from the movement of organs from one body and their transplantation into another.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)889-903
    JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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