Fenwick Scholar Program

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Date of Award


Project Type

Campus Access Only

First Advisor

Renee Beard

Second Advisor

Selina Gallo-Cruz


The physiological risks of organ transplantation are well documented, but more poorly understood are the sociological ways in which organ recipients respond to and redefine themselves in reaction to physiological risks and social changes accompanying transplantation. This paper analyses the sociological dimensions of transplantation as a risky procedure, and explores how transplant recipients navigate transplantation surgery. It also builds on previous sociological exploration of risk as a socially constructed process that mediates experiences of health and illness. Data for this in-depth interview analysis comes from a dataset of forty-six (N=46) participants comprised of organ recipients, donors, clinicians and researchers. This paper focuses on narratives of fourteen organ recipients, and their four dominant risk management strategies that emerged: 1) “performing” normalcy, 2) actively combating the abnormal, 3) absolute medical compliance, and 4) surrendering to and embracing the abnormal. These strategies simultaneously support and conflict with clinical practice and norms of western medicine. This paper also elaborates on the concept of the “transplanted self,” the new identities that emerge amidst the varied ways in which organ recipients respond to the social risks of transplantation. A better understanding of the recipient experience will contribute to improved care in the transplantation field.

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