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A sociologist specializing in medicine and psychiatry and a historian of science collaborated to examine organ transplants and dialysis from three relatively different perspectives: (1) the process per se of developing new methods of treatment for human illness; (2) the "ethos" surrounding the physicians involved in devising and implementing these innovations; and (3) the extent to which the problems of transplantation and dialysis relate, not only to medicine, but as paradigms for other, perhaps similar, emerging problems for a society that is becoming increasingly sophisticated technologically. In their research, the authors state that two major themes emerge: "gift exchange" and "uncertainty."
The book is divided into three distinct sections, in keeping with the separate approaches mentioned. The first section discusses some of the problems inherent in transplantation: the "rejection" reaction, the manner of acquiring the donor organ, and the ethical considerations in human experimentation, specifically, when does an "experiment" become