Death as resource: a story of organ donation and communication across the ‘great mist’ in Iceland

Arnar Arnason* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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Long-standing arguments in the social scientific and humanities accounts of death, speak of the medicalisation of death in contemporary societies, particularly western ones. According to these arguments, modern medicine treats death as a failure to be avoided. This special issue proposes that a fundamental shift in both medical and wider societal views of death has taken place. It argues that as biomedicine inserts itself increasingly into the spaces of dying, and grieving, death is more and more seen as an opportunity, and a resource to be exploited. This paper investigates a new medical view on death emerging in relation to discourses and practices around organ donation in Iceland. It examines the links between an emerging medical and societal view of death as a resource, with earlier conceptions of grief as an opportunity for personal growth. A connection here is organ donation as a way in which people make bad deaths good.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-68
Number of pages19
JournalMedicine Anthropology Theory
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements: My thanks to the editors of this special issue, Bob Simpson and Rachel Douglas-Jones for the opportunity and their support; to the general editors of the journal for their help; and to the anonymous reviewers for very helpful suggestions.


  • death
  • grief
  • Iceland
  • organ donation
  • taboo


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