Hope Rites : An Ethnographic Study of Mechanical Help-Heart Implantation Treatment

Sammanfattning: This thesis is about cultural aspects of advanced medical technology for treating end-stage heart failure. New medical technologies like mechanical help-hearts save lives, but they also bring new uncertainties, risks, and challenges. Based on nine months of ethnographic field work in a Swedish academic hospital, this study examines the ways of managing uncertainties of end-stage heart failure and of high-tech treatment, and also how these practices tie into the shared understandings of life-threatening chronic illness, the body, and medical technology’s role.This study draws on anthropological discussions of healing rituals as an analytical tool to make sense of social and cultural dimensions of mechanical help-heart implantation treatment. Viewed as a ritual, this treatment creates and maintains hope as a virtue through which possibilities of new medical technology are justified as culturally approved ways of handling the uncertainties of severe heart failure and mechanical help-heart treatment. Ultimately, even when treatment is regarded as successful, the patients may be saved but are never really ‘cured’ and remain, thus, permanently tied to the world of medicine. This new mode of existence is characterized by paradoxical permanent transit between uncertainty and hope.