Organ donation

Contacting the donor family

Recipients who’d received an organ from a deceased (cadaveric) donor often wrote to the donor family via the specialist nurse (transplant co-ordinator). All contact between recipients and donor families takes place via the specialist nurses assigned to each family and recipient.
Some of the recipients we interviewed had written to the donor family shortly after the transplant to thank them and tell them a bit about what the transplant had meant to them. Many of those we spoke to said they’d never heard back from the donor family but often thought about them and the donor. They said they would always be grateful for the gift they’d been given and remember the loss and trauma the donor family had experienced. On the day of the transplant, many said they thought about their donor and donor family and commemorated the day in some way.
Some of the people we interviewed said they’d been given very little information about their donor but would have loved to have known more. Malcolm (Interview 22) said that he’d had his second kidney transplant over twenty years ago. He was given no information about the donor but would have liked to have thanked the donor family and to have met them. Diana said she’d asked about her donor soon after coming round from surgery. She’d written to the family twice but had never received a reply.
Sue had had two liver transplants, in 1995 and 2006. She wrote to both donor families and sends them cards every Christmas. She heard back from one of the families.
Chris said he wished he’d written to the donor family. Although the kidney he received rejected after about ten days, the gift had still been just as important.
Experiences of donor families gives more detail on contact with recipients.

Last reviewed May 2016.


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