Organs, Icons, and Ethics: Figuring Living Kidney Donation in Mexico and Beyond
In living donor transplantation trying to help one person fundamentally depends upon harming another. This is thus a rather extraordinary form of sacrificial medicine, yet one that has become a routine medical practice worldwide. Drawing on my recent book, this talk examines how living donation gets contingently rendered as life-saving -- or as life-risking -- across different sites. Bringing together comparative material from Mexico and the U.S., I ask: what are the particular images, stories, and ideas used to imagine the figure of the living donor? What is made more (and less) visible in such imaginings? And ultimately, what thus becomes more (and less) clinically practicable, politically legible, and ethically permissible?
Megan Crowley-Matoka is Associate Professor in the Departments of Medical Education and Anthropology and Director of Graduate Studies for the Program in Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University. A sociocultural and medical anthropologist, her work examines the culture of medicine in relation to the making of both self and state. Broadly focused on the question of how patients, medical professionals, and policy makers make decisions in the face of clinical uncertainty, her research engages areas of medicine where the balance between offering healing and inflicting harm is delicate and in dispute, and tracks the uneven social configurations and consequences -- as well as the moral problems -- that emerge in such zones. Her first ethnographic project, recently published in the book Domesticating Organ Transplant: Familial Sacrifice and National Aspiration in Mexico (Duke 2016), explores the intimate dynamics and inequitable politics of organ transplantation in Mexico. Her second book project, currently underway, is an ethnography of the political and moral economies of pain management in U.S. biomedicine as they emerge in the articulations -- and disarticulations -- between pharmaceutical, surgical, and public health modes of care.