Exchanging spare parts or becoming a new person? People's attitudes toward receiving and donating organs

Soc Sci Med. 2001 May;52(10):1491-9. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(00)00258-6.


The present study explored the public's feelings and ideas about receiving organs, and how this influenced their attitudes toward accepting a transplant themselves. Also the willingness to donate was examined in order to provide a complementary perspective. The main aim was to identify consistent attitude patterns that would include attitudes toward both receiving and donating organs and the motives behind this. Sixty-nine individuals with varying socio-demographic background, selected from samples who had responded to a questionnaire on receiving and donating organs and tissues, were interviewed in-depth. The approach to analyse the interviews was hermeneutic. Seven typical attitude patterns emerged. By an 'attitude pattern' was meant a specific set of attitudes and motives, that formed a consistent picture that was logical and psychologically meaningful. In the discussion, two different conceptions of the body were focused. One of them meant that the body was easily objectified and conceived as machine-like, and did not represent the self. This machine model paved the way for the understanding that body parts needed to be replaced by spare parts. The other conception meant that a new organ would transfer the donor's qualities, i.e. influence the identity of the recipient with regard to behaviour, appearance, and personality. This belief may be explained by 'analogy thinking' based on our everday experience of how mixed entities take on the qualities of all components. Another explanation would be a kind of magical thinking and 'the law of contagion', which is often connected to oral incorporation. The consequences of these conceptions when patients are confronted with the factual situation of a transplantation, were discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Body Image
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Logic
  • Magic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Transplantation / psychology*
  • Self Concept
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Tissue Donors / psychology*