Saturday, March 12, 2011

Organ Donations: Family Response to the Experience (Research, Video 2:47)

People have interesting ideas about donating their organs to others after they die. Perhaps you have heard someone say they wouldn’t donate their organs because their bodies would not be complete in the afterlife or on Judgment Day when they returned.  With those kinds of thoughts, imagine how difficult it must be for some people to make the decision to donate organs of a loved one. Even families who view organ donation as a means for the loved one to live on in another person may find the ordeal distressful on some level.

What do people who have been involved in the organ donation process think about their experience? Response to a 20-question survey of organ and tissue donors' families in San Diego and Imperial County (California) reported these results:

1)   Most respondents (84%) indicated that family support was the most helpful thing in dealing with their grief, followed by the support of friends (74%) and religious and cultural beliefs (37%).
2)   Most (75%) indicated that they agreed to the donation so that something positive could result from their loss.
3)   Most respondents (93%) felt that they were given enough information to make an informed decision about donation.
4)   6% indicated that the donation process interfered with funeral or memorial arrangements.
 5)  More than 95% understood that their loved one had died before they were approached for consent.
 6)  12% said they still had unanswered questions about aspects of donation.
 7) 15% indicated that discussing organ donation added more emotional stress to their overall experience.

While most respondents seem to have had a satisfying experience participating in the organ donor process and regarding grief management, some have troubling concerns that can impact them negatively over time if they are not resolved. Healthcare workers have to be especially sensitive to those involved with organ donations both before and after the loved one’s death in terms of support and grief management.

Steve Ferkau has lived with cystic fibrosis his entire life. He has almost died on more than one occasion. His life changed eight years ago when he received a new set of lungs from a young woman named Kari. This video tells their story: 

Frances Shani Parker, Author

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