Messiahs, pariahs, and donors: The development of social representations of organ transplants

Abstract
This longitudinal, qualitative study investigated the genesis and transformation of the social representations of organ transplants. A search of the West Australian newspaper, from 1954 to 1995 found 672 articles pertaining to organ transplants. Two distinct, but conflicting, representations emerged in the analyses. In the first representation, found from 1967/68, the surgeon was paramount and organ transplants were iconised as ‘spare part surgery’. In the second representation, found from 1984/85, the role of the donor was emphasised and transplants iconised as a ‘gift of life’. Both representations were discernible in 1994/95. We consider the question whether there are now two conflicting representations or one representation with two conflicting sets of beliefs at its core. The results are discussed in terms of anchoring, objectification, transformation, and structure, as well as Moscovici’s notion of canonic themata
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