Organ donation: blessing or burden, gift of life or sacrifice?

Sque, M.R.G., Long, T. and Macleod Clark, J. (1970) Organ donation: blessing or burden, gift of life or sacrifice? In, Initiating a European Platform: Organ Transplantation Ethical, Legal and Psychological Aspects. Towards a Common European Policy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 01 - 04 Apr 2007.


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The ‘gift of life’ is a popular discourse associated
with pro-donation and transplantactivists, its use seemingly directed at
heightening public awareness about the
perceived benefits of organ donation.
However such rhetoric does not reflect the
depth and complexity of families’ decision-
making process. A decision to facilitate
the removal of organs from the deceased
body, through post mortem surgical
intervention, may be better represented as a
‘sacrifice’; a discourse that acknowledges
the difficulties encountered by bereaved
families in their decision-making about organ
donation. To gain insights into the relevance
of ‘gift of life’ or ‘sacrifice’ as discourses
that inform families’ decisionmaking
about donation data from four
studies carried out between 1996-2006
were interrogated for evidence of families’
literal, symbolic or metaphorical representations
of ‘gift of life’ or ‘sacrifice’ in describing
their experiences of donation. This
presentation examines the relative value of
these two discourses and whether they further
our understanding of families’ motivation
and decision-making about organ donation.
Issues that may provide insights
that could potentially contribute to enhancing
families’ satisfaction with their decisions,
improving support to families and
increasing the incidence of donation. Findings
indicated that whilst some families
were motivated by the idea of the ‘gift of
life’ others were de-motivated by deepseated
concerns related to the sacrificial element
of this gift giving. These concerns
were revealed in explicit or metaphorical
examples related to cutting, and mutilation,
relevant to the cultic notion of sacrifice;
examples which evidenced the nature of
the hard-wrought decision-making by families.
We propose that the discourse of ‘sacrifice’
and the manner in which it impinges
on families’ decision-making may help to
explain the high refusal rates in populations
that appear generally aware of the
benefits of organ transplantation

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Related URLs:
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > Superseded (SONM) > Superseded (CPE)
ePrint ID: 45861
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
1 January 1970UNSPECIFIED
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2007
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:20

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