Talking vs Acting: How is Organ Donation Framed?

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Organ transplantation is one of medicine’s success stories. It has become the therapy of choice for patients with organ failure. Given that there is a serious shortage of organs donors in Catalunya, one would expect public attitudes toward organ donations to be largely negative. Yet the opposite seems to be the case: recent statistics reveal generally positive attitudes (OCATT, 2006). At the same time, these statistics suggest that the 20 % rate of refusal by families of donor-eligible patients acts as a limiting factor in the success of organ transplantation. The contradiction between this endorsement and active donation trough authorisation is investigated within the framework that draws from Goffman (1974) and Lakoff (2002) frame analysis. Twenty focus groups were conducted. A grounded theory analysis suggests that the gulf between of positioning the self as a donor and acting as a donor can be best understood as a representational field organized around five frames of reference –the gift of life, death figures, conceptions of the body, trusting the system and collective emotions. The normative and functional expressions of these frames are discussed in their relationship to the enactment of practices of donation and, alternatively, practices of refusal in the event of authorising clinicians to extract organs from a relative.


Keywords: Organ Donation, Frame Analysis, Health Care, Social Psychology
Stream: Natural, Environmental and Health Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Jordi Sanz Porras

Researcher, Department of Social Psychology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)
Barcelona, Spain

Jordi Sanz’s research focuses on three areas: the sociology of Health and Illness (especially patient’s subjectivity and experience); critical philosophy applied to medical practice (especially phenomenology and pragmatism); and the Sociology of the Body (especially the reciprocal relationships between body and technology). He is currently conducting a study on patient’s experience of bariatric surgery, particularly long term body changes and patient’s relationship with food.

Lupicinio Iñiguez

Professor, Department of Social Psychology, UAB
Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain


Gemma Flores

Researcher, Department of SOcial Psychology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Bellaterra, BCN, Spain


Eduardo Moreno

Researcher, Department of Social Psyhology, UAB
Bellaterra, BCN, Spain


Ref: I08P0322