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The Transplant Imaginary

The Transplant Imaginary: Mechanical Hearts, Animal Parts, and Moral Thinking in Highly Experimental Science

Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    The Transplant Imaginary
    Book Description:

    In The Transplant Imaginary, author Lesley Sharp explores the extraordinarily surgically successful realm of organ transplantation, which is plagued worldwide by the scarcity of donated human parts, a quandary that generates ongoing debates over the marketing of organs as patients die waiting for replacements. These widespread anxieties within and beyond medicine over organ scarcity inspire seemingly futuristic trajectories in other fields. Especially prominent, longstanding, and promising domains include xenotransplantation, or efforts to cull fleshy organs from animals for human use, and bioengineering, a field peopled with "tinkerers" intent on designing implantable mechanical devices, where the heart is of special interest. Scarcity, suffering, and sacrifice are pervasive and, seemingly, inescapable themes that frame the transplant imaginary. Xenotransplant experts and bioengineers at work in labs in five Anglophone countries share a marked determination to eliminate scarcity and human suffering, certain that their efforts might one day altogether eliminate any need for parts of human origin. A premise that drives Sharp's compelling ethnographic project is that high-stakes experimentation inspires moral thinking, informing scientists' determination to redirect the surgical trajectory of transplantation and, ultimately, alter the integrity of the human form.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95715-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Moral Neutrality in Experimental Science
    (pp. 1-24)

    On August 2, 2011, the BBC reported the successful hospital discharge and homecoming of forty-year-old “dad Matthew Green,” who had undergone an extraordinary surgical procedure two months before: a team of transplant experts permanently removed Green’s failing natal heart and replaced it with a SynCardia Total Artificial Heart (TAH), a device designed to serve as a temporary “bridge” until a suitable human donor heart match could be found. Green’s newly implanted artificial heart was now powered by an external Freedom® Portable Driver,¹ a hefty battery assemblage weighing a bit over six kilograms, or thirteen pounds, tethered to Green’s body and...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The Reconfigured Body of the Transplant Imaginary
    (pp. 25-49)

    The transplant imaginary is very much a moral domain. Surgeons, patients, health activists, and many in the general populace understand human organ transfer as beleaguered by intense shortages, where the gap between supply and demand increases each year. Transplant specialists are driven nevertheless by the desire to alleviate human suffering by replacing patients’ diseased organs with those derived from other bodies, pushing ever higher the number of patients on waiting lists for replacement parts. These surgeries have become so commonplace in some hospitals as to generate a discourse of patients’ rights among those who suffer from acute or chronic—and...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Hybrid Bodies and Animal Science: The Promises of Interspecies Proximity
    (pp. 50-89)

    From a lay perspective, xenotransplantation is a most peculiar science. Built on the premise that scientific ingenuity could one day overcome the complexities of the human immune system such that our bodies might perceive foreign, animal-derived tissue as “self” rather than “other,” this highly experimental domain is driven by desires to accomplish embodied, interspecies hybridity in hopes of alleviating suffering and extending human life. Endeavors to repair the broken bodies of often terminally ill patients are viewed as inherently moral—even heroic—goals within xeno research. Implantable parts range from those derived at the molecular level to whole, fleshy organs,...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Artificial Life: Perfecting the Mechanical Heart
    (pp. 90-146)

    Bioengineers are passionate genealogists. One need only attend plenary sessions at professional conferences, consult historical accounts, initiate web-based searches on such topics as “artificial organs” and “the mechanical heart,” or access the archives of Project Bionics¹ to encounter a plethora of materials authored by specialists who trace their field’s chronological progression by pairing inventors with their inventions. Bioengineering has long been dominated by men² drawn from a range of disciplines—including medicine, veterinary science, and numerous subspecialties of engineering itself.³ Although many members are determined to stake claims by patenting their work,⁴ they nevertheless describe their ideas and designs as...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Temporality and Social Desire in Anticipatory Science
    (pp. 147-170)

    Experimental science is by definition an anticipatory enterprise. Whereas funding proposals and associated research design are framed and driven by clearly articulated goals, outcomes are always hypothetical and, thus, unknown. In short, the black box of science obscures future knowledge, making way for imagination and desire. A host of technical questions dog those scientists engaged in experimental transplant research who are intent on redirecting clinical practices. For instance, how close, truly, is the pig’s genome to that of Homo sapiens? Are metabolic and structural similarities between these species enough to ensure successful organ transfer? Is transspecies tissue matching indeed possible?...

  10. Conclusion: The Moral Parameters of Virtuous Science
    (pp. 171-178)

    In April 2012, the Canadian government brought to a halt the paired efforts of Ontario Pork (a conglomeration of hog farmers) and the University of Guelph, who together had sought to drive to market a new hybrid creation known as the “Enviropig.” This oddly named creature was hailed by its producers as a “less polluting pig” because its manure was more environmentally friendly than that of your average hog. The Enviropig had been genetically “altered” or “engineered” through the integration of mouse and E. coli bacterium genetic material so that the pig’s gut could process phosphorous more effectively and excrete...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 179-198)
    (pp. 199-214)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 215-221)