MEDIA ADIVISORY- conference on "Commerce in Organs: Culture, Politics, and Bioethics in the Global Market"

by Gretchen Kell

What: "Commerce in Organs: Culture, Politics and Bioethics of the Global Market," a conference to debate current and future medical practices concerning the sale of organs from living donors.

When: April 26-28, 1996

Where: The University of California at Berkeley

Who: Speakers and topics include:

  • Harry Wu, human rights activist and executive director of the Laogai Research Foundation in Washington, D.C., on "Communist Charity: The Use of Executed Prisoners' Organs in China"

  • David Rothman, director of the Center for the Study of Society and Medicine at Columbia University's College of Physicians, on "The International Traffic in Organs: The Bellagio Task Force Report on Transplantation and Bodily Integrity"

  • Jean LaFontaine, professor emeritus of anthropology at the London School of Economics, on "Satanic and Ritual Sexual Abuse in London"

  • Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor and chair of anthropology and medical anthropology at UC Berkeley, on "Theft of Life: The Globalization of Organ Stealing Rumors"

  • Luise White, visiting professor of history, Emory University, on "The Traffic in Heads: The Integrity of Borders in Contemporary South Africa"

  • Veena Das, India's leading social anthropologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Delhi, on "Familial and Medical Discourses in the Context of Organ Transplantation"

  • Abdallah Daar, transplant surgeon and chair of the department of surgery at Sultan Qaboos University, Oman, on "Payment for Organs: What is it all about?"

  • Eric Stover, physician, former executive director of Physicians for Human Rights and current director of UC Berkeley's Townsend Center for the Humanities.

    Background: There has been a decade of spirited debate over a new transnational commerce in human organs -- kidneys, corneas, liver tissue and heart valves -- to facilitate transplantation. In India, kidneys are sold on the open market through newspaper ads placed by doctors looking for healthy, living donors. In South Africa, the cadavers of poor, mostly black, victims of urban violence are sometimes "looted" (without prior consent) for usable organs. In China, the bodies of executed prisoners are used to supply fresh organs. The commodification and sale of human organs for transplantation is a source of terror in shantytowns worldwide. The sale of organs has been condemned by many international medical and human rights organizations, but not by professional societies of transplant specialists.

    This conference, free and open to the public, celebrates the inaugural event of UC Berkeley's Program for Critical Studies in Medicine, Science and the Body.

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