The obligation to say 'Thank you': heart transplant recipients' experience of writing to the donor family

Am J Transplant. 2011 Mar;11(3):619-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-6143.2010.03419.x.


Transplant recipients are encouraged to write anonymous thank-you letters to the donor family. We prospectively explored heart transplant recipients' embodied responses to the 'obligation' to write a thank-you letter using audio/video-taped open-ended interviews (N = 27). Fifteen of the 19 participants, who wrote letters to the donor family, expressed or visually revealed significant distress about issues such as the obligation to write anonymously and the inadequacy of the 'thank-you'. Writing the thank-you letter is not a neutral experience for heart transplant recipients. Rethinking the obligatory practice regarding the thank-you letter and developing the necessary support for the recipient through this process is necessary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Communication
  • Correspondence as Topic*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family / psychology*
  • Feedback, Psychological
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Transplantation / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tissue Donors / psychology*
  • Young Adult