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Our Bodies Belong to God: Organ Transplants, Islam, and the Struggle for Human Dignity in Egypt First Edition
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“This is the best ethnography yet available on Islamic ethical reasoning and medical practice. Hamdy presents a truly sophisticated and nuanced portrayal of the organ transplant debate in Egypt and its larger implications for the Middle East and medicine.” --John Bowen, author of A New Anthropology of Islam
“Our Bodies Belong to God is a sensitive and original exploration of how religious ethics inform the practice of medicine for doctors, patients and policy makers alike. This will be read widely in medical anthropology and the field of ethics.” --Saba Mahmood, author of Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject
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This is a unique book covering such a wide array of concepts that to call it multi-disciplinary would do it an injustice. It is a definitive piece of work that has clearly taken many years to construct, and the final result is that of a masterpiece. The book takes the reader on a journey of discovery through the complexities of transplantation, faith and nationhood in a country emerging from a tumultuous recent history.
This refreshing book comes at a time when much of the literature in the field of transplantation ethics has become stagnant, with the same issues being debated with little progress. Therefore this ground-breaking work is most timely and presents the transplant community with a unique opportunity to look closely at itself and consider deeper issues that are little discussed. Hamdy shows no fear as she delves into topics other authors have considered taboo.
I am particularly impressed that Hamdy has actually spent considerable time in dialysis units in Egypt gathering her data. She is truly an active anthropologist, as opposed to the" armchair" variety whose work we are often obliged to consume. This gives the work serious credibility and relevance to dialysis patients, who often rightly criticize work produced at a distance. Hamdy has been there and felt the pain alongside her participants.
Individuals considering donating (or vending) a kidney would be wise to read Hamdy's work before making the critical decision to proceed. While the context of the work is clearly centred around Egypt and the Sunni Islamic faith, the social, ethical and theological aspects of donation discussed are generalizable to other contexts. Potential donors reading this book will certainly gain perspectives on the issue that they will never receive during work-up and follow-up in the transplantation center.
Likewise, the book affords the opportunity to those awaiting transplantation or those have already been through the transplantation process to consider wider issues that is again unlikely to be explained to them in the conventional clinical setting.
Hamdy has, quite remarkably, gained candid insights into the mindset of several practising physicians, and rigorously documented their contrasting standpoints on key issues. The evidence presented will be of great interest to medical students considering specialising in transplant nephrology or indeed those already in the field.
While my review primarily focusses on the societal and ethical aspects of live organ donation, it is important to note that the book covers a wide area of related topics, such as corneal transplantation and the specific dynamics of the Egyptian environment. Hamdy's passion for her culture and heritage is evident throughout. As an outsider, I found her discussions most informative, particularly given the recent political events in Egypt. Hamdy's work, while remaining scholarly, is written in a clear and engaging style, therefore enabling access to the wide audience that can benefit from it. `
This book connected with me at the very core of my existence. At the age of 33 I was diagnosed with end stage renal disease, and after spending a year on dialysis, I received a kidney from a beloved friend. I can therefore state with some authority that this book essential reading for anyone whose life has been touched by dialysis and transplantation. Donors and recipients, their families and their physicians, together with ethicists, anthropologists and theologians, will all find this book a compelling and treasured addition to their bookshelf.
Dr Campbell Fraser, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
28 February 2012
The writer of this review has never met the author and has no commercial connection with her. The review is submitted unsolicited.