Body Politics: Morals, Markets, and Mobilization of Organ Donation

Wan-Zi Lu is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation, “Body Politics: Morals, Markets, and Mobilization of Organ Donation,” traces the global development of bodily giving regulations. To understand why shared cultural norms produced different policies over and practices of organ donation, she compares the transformations of the transplant fields in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. She has co-authored a chapter in The New Handbook of Political Sociology (Cambridge) and published in Contexts.

When confronted by the ethical dilemma between cultivating altruism for transplants and following customs and beliefs that take the body parts as family possessions, how do policymakers, medical professionals, and donors’ families negotiate the moral boundaries? By comparing the development of organ donation in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, where the Confucianist thought regards preserving body integrity as enacting filial piety, her dissertation addresses this question. Wan-Zi Lu argues that the historical trajectories shaping the stakeholders and their political coordination explain why the similar moral barriers for transplants in these sites generate different regulations. But governments can only claim relative autonomy. The practices of organ donation portray that when mobilizing altruistic acts, organizational arrangements shape the possibilities for situational adaptation and generate unexpected donation outcomes: Singapore shows a decline in donation rates with the country’s most incentivized donor pool whilst Taiwan’s organ supplies grow given its most stringent regulation on organ donation worldwide. In addition to examining the sub regional variations, her dissertation traces how countries around the world debated, passed, and amended regulations related to organ donation and gamete exchange. She identifies factors shaping the legislative processes to explain why the same country adopts contrasting approaches to regulating the giving of the same set of body parts.