Conference Agenda

RN16_10b: Risk - Donation - Mental health
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Angela Genova, Urbino Carlo Bo
Location: UP.4.205
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Fourth Floor Oxford Road


The Gift Of Data

Vera Raivola

University of Eastern Finland, Finland, The Finnish Red Cross Blood Service

Voluntary blood donation has been promoted as the “gift of life to a fellow stranger”, as Richard Titmuss (1970) famously argued in his comparative study of private and public blood economies. Still today, the public discourse is focused on praising donors for their altruistic, gratuitous decision to give blood, and emphasizing the different perspectives on risks and value related with donated blood between the donor (low) and recipient (high). Donors’ personal interests i.e. “selfish motives” are considered risks factors for a healthy blood supply system.

So what happens when blood donors are also asked to gift their blood and personal information to biobank research? At the time we conducted interviews and focus groups with blood donors, the Finnish Red Cross Blood was about to launch the Blood Service Biobank (BSB). The plan was to recruit volunteers to “extend their help to science”, so in practice, to give broad consent for the BSB to collect their blood samples and other health and register data for the use of future research. These users can be also international or privately funded research organizations.

Our focus was understand how blood donors’ viewed the forthcoming BSB and the following datafication of blood to match with their interests. Study participants were offered a scenario about genetic risks and other health related data on blood donors becoming discovered by biobank research. We were interested to see how such development might be reflected on their expectations about risks and values related to blood donation. We were also interested in how well do these interpretations fit with the promotional discourse of altruistic gift relationships and claims for disinterest?

Third Party Reproduction And Being An Egg Or Sperm Donor: The Vision Enabled Through A Sociology Of Personal Life

Petra Nordqvist

University of Manchester, United Kingdom

In recent decades, reproductive medicine has become a widespread global phenomenon. Within the field, donor conception, and the use of donated eggs, sperm or embryos from a third party, plays a key role. Despite the importance of those individuals who donate, there has been scant research exploring their experiences. Seeking to contribute to the growing, albeit still small, body of research on donors, this paper advocates bringing the process of donating into dialogue with a sociology of personal life. It suggests that important new insights about the donor experience can be achieved by utilising this theoretical perspective. The paper applies a broad framework of a sociology of personal life to demonstrate that the decision to donate reverberates within donors’ everyday lives and relationships, and explores, primarily theoretically, how it is that acts of donation bring such issues into play. To this end, the paper examines in more detail three ways in which donating interacts with dimensions that are integral to personal life: ‘living’ genetic connectedness; relationality; and the intimate body. Ultimately, the paper shows that a sociology of personal life can reveal and begin to address new, unexplored questions for this field that demand greater scholarly attention.

Beds or Meds? The Changing Societal Responses to Mental Health Problems in Affluent Democracies, 1960-2003

Sigrun Olafsdottir

University of Iceland, Iceland

Societies increasingly rely on medical solutions to solve a wide array of problems. Classic theories of medicalization give almost exclusive power to the medical profession as defining and responding to health problems, while newer theories have begun to acknowledge other factors. Yet, current theories and research center on the U.S.. This paper moves research on medicalization into a comparative perspective by looking at the medicalization of mental health in 20 affluent democracies from 1960-2003. It uses three macro-theories to understand processes of medicalization, specifically globalization, the welfare state, and theories of profession. Using data from the OECD and the Yearbooks of International Non-Governmental Organization, I test hypothesis of macro-level effects on medicalization of mental health, captured by two indicators (institutionalization and reliance on psychiatric medication), that undoubtedly put mental health problems under the medical jurisdiction. The findings clearly show that all three macro-level factors have the potential to both support and counter medicalization. Regarding globalization, membership in public INGOs decreases medicalization whereas membership in professional INGOs increases medicalization. The welfare state both supports and counters medicalization. The welfare state as a whole facilities deinstitutionalization, but public spending on health increases both reliance on institutions and medication. Finally, professionals follow global trends regarding deinstitutionalization but protect their professional power by guarding their exclusive right to prescribe medication. The findings clearly show important links between medicalization, globalization, the welfare state, and professions.