Organ donation

Views on organ donation: donor families

All the donor families we interviewed had consented to organ donation on the death of a relative. Many said that organ donation was one of the few positives to come out of a traumatic situation (see ‘Consenting to organ donation). Eunice said, ‘Sometimes it’s what gets me up in the mornings if I’m having a bad day’. Hearing from the recipient or talking to other recipients had been very rewarding and had confirmed what a crucial difference organ donation can make to someone else’s life. Some noted that many people would be willing to accept an organ if they or a relative became seriously ill, and that people should be just as willing to donate. The more people that signed on the Organ Donor Register, the more patients could be helped.
Many of those we interviewed encouraged others, including friends and colleagues, to think about organ donation and consider registering. Some donor families, who had not thought about organ donation until they were faced with the decision in intensive care, said they’d now signed up. They encouraged others to talk about organ donation with their family and let them know their wishes. Several stressed that, although it was important to carry a donor card, registering online was the most effective way of stating one’s wishes.

Donor families that we talked to said it was important that people understood that the benefits of organ donation were two-sided' recipients and donor families benefitted. Knowing that someone else could have a better quality of life because of their relative’s donation was very fulfilling and, for some, a comfort. Several said that their loved one had been treated with dignity and respect and, even in their death, had been able to do some good. A few felt that, in some way, their relative now lived on in someone else. Some donor families felt that others should also know that their relative’s organs could go to a recipient older than the donor, and that not all organ transplants are successful.

Some donor families were keen on raising awareness of organ donation and had been interviewed about their experiences on TV, radio or in newspapers. Several felt it was important that organ donation was discussed in schools so that people would be more aware of it from a young age. Catherine and Tom (Interview 13) felt that giving people information was important so that they could make an informed choice about organ donation.
Some of the people we spoke to praised the organ donation system in Spain, a very successful system, because many people there consented to organ donation on the death of a relative. Some donors also discussed the presumed consent organ donation scheme, where organs are taken unless the donor has specifically opted out in writing. In the current ‘opt-in’ system of organ donation in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, individuals are asked to register their willingness to be a donor after their death.
Some of the donor families we talked to were in favour of presumed consent as they felt it would mean more organs would be available and more lives could be saved. Most, though, preferred the current ‘opt-in’ system as they felt that organs should be donated freely by those who want to and that it should a conscious decision. Several felt that education and more training for doctors and nurses would help raise awareness of organ donation and be a better way of increasing donation rates.

Last reviewed May 2016.
Last updated May 2016.


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