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Title: Unfitting parts : the moral, political and informal economies of 'Japanese' organ transplants
Author: Costa, Alessia
ISNI:       0000 0004 6060 9627
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2016
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Based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork in Tokyo, this thesis explores the 'economies' of organ transplants in, and from, Japan. In Japan, the national debate over brain death has resulted in an impasse regarding transplantation medicine that still places the country at the very bottom of international statistics for organ donation. While previous research has investigated in detail the Japanese controversy over brain death, this thesis investigates the so far largely overlooked problem of organ shortage. Taking up the narratives of transplant recipients who pursued care overseas, and their families, I analyse the phenomenon of travel for transplantation purposes from Japan to North America, casting light on a form of patients' mobility that remains poorly addressed within the growing debate on so-called 'transplant tourism'. Drawing on extended life narratives and participant observation, I discuss what it means to be a 'transplanted person' (ishokusha) in Japan. I discuss how Japanese patients pursue care and ponder delicate clinical decisions, how they navigate their life after the operation, and how they became key policy actors lobbying for reform of the national law on transplants. Further, I explore how the policy on brain death and transplants is applied in clinical practice, highlighting the question of how to better reconcile possible solutions to the problem of organ shortage, which transplant advocates successfully made the subject of national debate, and the long-enduring controversy over the definition of death. Compounding the analysis of local and global political economies of care with the personal experience of patients and their families, I introduce the mediators of local economies of organs, and describe the networks of social and moral obligations in the exchange of human body parts.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral