Patient Death and Face Transplantation

Current Anthropology

Samuel Taylor-Alexander had an article published in the leading disciplinary journal Current Anthropology. The article, entitled “Unmaking Responsibility: Patient Death and Face Transplantation”, demonstrates how the two components of responsibility—imputation and accountability—are decoupled in reports of patient death in the field.

In particular, Taylor-Alexander argues that responsibility is a product forged at the meeting of diverse social and technoscientific components and is something that is open to being remade and unmade.

He shows that when surgeons report on patient death in medical publications, they do so in a way that discursively shifts responsibility for fatality away from the operation—that is, away from the face transplantation undergone by the patient—and moves it into a space outside immediate biomedical agency.