Research Notes

Are Organs Becoming Commodities?

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of anthropology, will study the social context of economic exchanges around organ transplantation in Brazil, South Africa and India with a $61,000 grant awarded by the Open Society Foundation of New York City.

As primary investigator, Scheper-Hughes will conduct the Brazilian and South African components of the study. Her colleague, assistant professor Lawrence Cohen, will conduct the research in India.

The project grew out of Scheper-Hughes' earlier research and publications on the global rumors of human kidnapping for the purposes of harvesting body organs and selling them to international transplant teams.

In April 1996 she organized an international conference on commerce in organs that brought distinguished participants from Delhi, Paris, London, Oman and the United States to debate the ethics of the increasing commodification of organs. As a member of the International Bellagio Task Force on Securing the Bodily Integrity of the Socially Disadvantaged in Transplant Surgery, she is coauthor of the Bellagio Task Force Report, published in October in Transplantation Proceedings.

This last summer she conducted preliminary research in Rio, Recife, Salvador and Sao Paulo, Brazil, on the circumstances surrounding paid living donors for kidney transplantation and the changing social context created by Brazil's new "universal donor" law.



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