Navigating the new, transplanted self: how recipients manage the cognitive risks of organ transplantation

Nicholas R. Cormier, Selina R. Gallo-Cruz, Renee L. Beard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The physiological risks of organ transplantation are well documented, but more poorly understood are the sociological ways in which organ recipients redefine themselves in reaction to physiological risks and social changes accompanying transplantation. This article analyses transplantation as a procedure that is not only physiologically risky but also poses risk to the social identity of the recipient, and explores how transplant recipients cognitively navigate transplantation surgery from waiting for to recovering after a transplant. It builds on previous sociological exploration of risk as a socially constructed process mediating experiences of health and illness with a focused contribution on explaining how individuals navigate risks posed to their social identities by major biophysical transformations. This article pointedly analyses narratives of fourteen organ recipients and the four dominant phases of identity management that emerged to create what we have coined as the new ‘transplanted self’, indicating the varied ways the individual social self emerges in response to the social risks of transplantation. We conclude that a better understanding of the recipient experience will contribute to improved care in the transplantation field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1496-1513
Number of pages18
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • clinical uncertainty
  • grounded theory
  • illness behaviour
  • organ transplantation
  • risk
  • the self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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