Deservingness and gratitude in the context of heart transplantation

Geraldine O'Brien, Ngaire Donaghue, Iain WALKER, Clare Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Heart transplantation is now routinely offered as a treatment for end-stage heart failure, and the "gift-of-life" metaphor has become pervasive in this context, forming the foundation on which transplantation discourses rest. In this article, we question organ-as-gift understandings of transplantation. One can also legitimately think of the transplanted organ as a donation, with distinct implications in terms of the transplantation experience for the recipient. We explored the transplantation experience of 13 heart recipients in Australia. We conducted semistructured interviews, and our interpretative phenomenological analysis of the data resulted in three themes: deservingness, nuances of gratitude, and giving forward. Our results indicate that differences between organ-as-gift and organ-as-donation understandings of transplantation are more than merely semantic. Organ-as-donation understandings raise the issue of deservingness, with recipients' assessments of their worthiness influencing their posttransplant experience of gratitude and, ultimately, the meaning(s) gleaned from their transplant experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1635-1647
Number of pages13
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


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