Perish, the thought: Death Reference Desk is a lively resource for cadaveric donation consideration
Over what seems like eons, there has been a great deal of discussion over the definition of death. The advent of organ transplantation brought a new element to the discussion. In order to transplant vital organs and legitimize this practice, establishing a legal definition of death was necessary in many cases. And there has also been public resistance to certain definitions of death. While issues around this will likely be covered in greater detail at TransplantInformers in the future, for now, we simply want to refer you to a fantastic website, Death Reference Desk.
Here’s the story from one of the librarians who runs the site, Meg Holle, about the origins of Death Reference Desk.
Understanding many facets of death is a whole field in and of itself. In fact, Professor John Troyer, one of the co-founders of DRD, is also the website secretary for the Association for the Study of Death and Society. An association! And there is the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath. So you can be sure there’s lots of work being done on topics of death and plenty of people making a living doing it.
For those of you who are concerned with issues of death in your work, how it is defined, cultural variations on what death means or cultural practices around death, and how dead bodies are used, DRD provides a useful and accessible resource for those who are just dipping their toe into these subjects, as well as dedicated researchers.
There’s also a nifty Ask a Question! section on the site, part of the site’s aim to serve as a “bone fide reference desk” where you can make any query (within reason) about death and the librarians aim to answer it in a most librarian sort of way.
Particularly useful for TransplantInformers readers, the site even provides a handy link listing over a thousand materials about donation of organs and tissues.
While it is true that work on donor recruitment often focuses on saving lives, it is just as important to consider the flip side: death. DRD’s treatment of death is a great example of how morbidity and vitality actually work together–as is cadaveric organ donation–and offers a lot to consider. Additionally for those who work on living donation, you still have to face the reality that sometimes the patients you get to know don’t survive. How their memory has driven outreach and education work, how their death has been a catalyst for initiatives, and how we grieve for those we have lost are issues that require an engagement around how we give social meaning to death.