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Biomedical OdysseysFetal Cell Experiments from Cyberspace to China$
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Priscilla Song

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174778

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174778.001.0001

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Where the Virtual Becomes Visceral

Where the Virtual Becomes Visceral

(p.73) Chapter 4 Where the Virtual Becomes Visceral
Biomedical Odysseys

Priscilla Song

Princeton University Press

This chapter follows the journey of people living with paralysis and neurodegenerative conditions as they undergo fetal cell transplantation in China. It provides ethnographic insight on how these patients have operationalized hope in Beijing hospital wards, immersing themselves in the practical details of navigating an unfamiliar medical system while circumventing existential debates over the moral status of aborted fetuses. It begins by analyzing the online surgical report threads of the first three foreigners to receive Chinese neurosurgeon Dr. Huang Hongyun's fetal cell transplantation. All three were men from the United States who had suffered cervical-level spinal cord injuries. It then incorporates the experiences of a wide range of other fetal cell recipients in order to address the key points of disjuncture that Dr. Huang's foreign patients had to negotiate during their cross-cultural encounters in Beijing: conflicting expectations about caregiving, moral qualms about the use of fetal cells, and the embodied vicissitudes of experimental surgery.

Keywords:   China, fetal cell transplantation, foreign patients, Dr. Huang Hongyun, experimental treatment, paralysis, neurodegenerative condition, neurosurgeon, spinal cord injury

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