Transplant recipients' conceptions of three key phenomena in transplantation: the organ donation, the organ donor, and the organ transplant

Clin Transplant. 2003 Aug;17(4):391-400. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-0012.2003.00065.x.


Thirty-five heart and kidney transplant patients were interviewed on five separate occasions during the first 2 yr after transplantation. The aim was to explore their experiences of phenomena that distinguish the transplantation from other kinds of medical treatment. The selection of informants was designed to permit comparisons between recipients with heart and kidney transplants and with living and necro-transplants. The qualitative analysis of the informants' reactions was focused on three themes; nine categories emerged. The first theme concerned general aspects of the donation and the donor and was differentiated in four categories: joy and sorrow, gratefulness and indebtedness, guilt, and inequity. The second theme related to the donor as a unique individual and included three categories: recognition and identification with the donor, influences of the donor, and relationship to the living donor. The third theme pertained to incorporation of the transplant and included two categories related to the naturalness of having a transplant, and the benevolent transplant. The informants' reactions were discussed in terms of primary and secondary processes. All informants were in an emotionally charged situation after transplantation and warded off anxiety-provoking impulses, most intensively during the first 6 months. Avoidance, suppression, and denial were the most common defence mechanisms, all of which seemed to be supported by the medical context. Other, more constructive strategies are suggested. The recipients' own interpretations of causes to possible personality changes are discussed. There were few differences between heart and necro-kidney patients concerning the reactions to the donation, the donor, and the transplant; the dividing line was more prominent between recipients with living and necro-transplants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Cadaver
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Transplantation / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation / psychology*
  • Living Donors
  • Male
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Donors*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*
  • Transplants*