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Gendering Biomedical Care in Chronic Kidney Disease in Turkey
Turkey has an advanced medical infrastructure and qualified medical staff in organ transplantation and dialysis. There is an undercurrent to this biomedical success. Most chronic kidney patients on dialysis have refakatçis, i.e., attendants who are often female family members. When these chronic patients seek an organ for transplantation, it is often woman family members who volunteer to donate their organs. When talking to or about refakatçis or discussing the medical conditions of organ donors, doctors frequently utilize normative ideas about gendered expectations and obligations within the family. Drawing upon ethnographic research in a state-funded transplant unit and a dialysis center in Istanbul in 2017, this paper examines the centrality of familial and gendered care and sacrifice for the sustainability of the biomedical system. Within the broader context of Turkey’s integration into the neoliberal moral order, i.e., commercialization of healthcare and a greater reliance on the family, this paper argues that biomedical care for patients with chronic kidney diseases unfolds within a complex network of gendered familial obligations and expectations at every biomedical stage. Questioning approaches that oppose intimate familial care and biomedical cure, this article theorizes the role of gendered familial care as a central element of biomedical apparatuses and practices in the case of chronic kidney diseases.
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