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Out of Love or Obligation?: Living Donor Liver Transplantation in an Aging Society

Abstract

It is well known that organ transplantations from living donors, rather than deceased ones are more dominant in Asian countries compared to Western countries. This high proportion of living donor organ transplantation in this area has been usually attributed to low rate of cadaveric donations resulting from religious and cultural beliefs (Chen et al. 2003; Gruessner & Benedetti 2008). Drawing on social scientific approach on Living Donor Liver Transplantation (LDLT) in South Korea, however, I try to show that the consistent and rapid increase in LDLT in about a decade cannot be explained away by locally specific religion and culture. I argue that the recent upsurge in LDLT is, to some extent intertwined with the increasing demand from the elder persons as organ recipients as medical anthropologist Kaufman observed in living kidney donation in U.S (Kaufman 2015). After investigating this issue from the perspective of justice in an aging society, I finally propose that bioethical challenges from living organ donation need more thorough and broader public reflection.

Dae-cheong Ha works as a senior researcher of Korea National Institute for Bioethics Policy(KONIBP) after obtaining Ph.D in Science and Technology Studies at the Seoul National University in 2012. He is one of co-authors of Social Science of Biopolitics (Aleph, 2013, in Korean) and wrote several papers about bioethics, biopolitics, and global risk politics.