In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, organs and tissue from a potential donor can be used only if that is their wish. Joining the NHS Organ Donor Register is a way of giving legal consent or authorisation for donation to take place. This is a more permanent way of expressing one’s wishes than a donor card as cards can get lost or damaged. People should also discuss their wishes with their family. If their wishes are not clear, the person closest to them in life will be asked what they think they would have wanted. This is why it is important that people are aware of their loved one’s views on organ donation. In Wales (currently also being debated in the Scottish Parliament) there is an ‘opt-out’ system where unless a person opts-out of organ donation, it is assumed that he or she has no objection to becoming an organ donor (1st December 2015).
An organ donation nurse explains the role of specialist nurses in the organ donation process.
Rachels grandfather had had a kidney transplant. At the age of seven, she told her parents that…
Age at interview 44
Regarding organ donation, well my father had a kidney transplant when I was, he was on dialysis, and then he had a kidney transplant when I was very young. He was only born with one kidney and he was basically very ill. And latterly he went onto dialysis and he got a kidney transplant that worked for about a year and a half. And also then the body rejected it and then he got another one, and that rejected right away.
But there is a big difference to our quality of life, the whole family’s quality of life when he got a new kidney. Before that we were tied to a kidney machine, or a dialysis machine three times a week and we were limited with holidays. We couldn’t really go anywhere. I think the only place we could manage was St. Andrew’s, and there was a Kidney Patient’s Association house. But everybody else was going away to Spain, places like that, and the farthest we could go, they didn’t have, it wasn’t so advanced as it now.
Sadly, my dad died when I was eighteen and that was a long time ago, over 27 years ago. When I got married, I had two children, in fact my two children openly discuss things with their grandparents how they’ve only got one gran and one granddad from another side, but they don’t have four grans or granddads like other people have. And seen photographs of my dad. And children being children are very inquisitive and want to know what happened to them and why did they die and all these kind of things.
So we’d openly tell them about my dad and about how he died and why he died; and because he was so ill, and the difference that an organ, he got a kidney and that helped him for a long, for a year and a half he had, made quality of life a lot better.
It was just one of these things where it was just discussed and later on, it was maybe a couple of days later, all of a sudden my son and my daughter had probably been discussing it. And we came in one day, or they came in one day, and my daughter said, Look, just to let you know, if I die I want my organs, or I want my, all my hearts and liver and my kidneys to go to other people to help them live
She was only 7 at the time and we kind of laughed, not laughed at her, we didn’t discount it but we said, You know, that’s not going to happen to you because we’re the old people in the house. And you’ll be telling the doctors to take our organs and to give the organs to other people And she said, Well I want that to happen anyway So we had, no she was like, Okay And we put it to the back of our heads because you never ever think anything like that is going to happen. Later on down the line obviously that kind of did happen.
John had carried a donor card since he was 16. Going through his personal things to find his…
Age at interview 63
He [doctor] then said, Have you ever given organ donation any consideration And at that moment I remember thinking, John has carried a donor card from the age of 16. He came home from school at that time and said there had been an educational input about organ donation, and he talked to us about it. And I said to him at the time if that’s what you would like, I had never even, nursing I hadn’t actually never thought about organ donation I have to say.
But if that’s what John wanted to do, he said that’s what he wanted to do, but he didn’t want that, you know should he die, he didn’t want his eyes to be removed. And he’d crossed that out on the card, so we knew that.
So when the doctor mentioned organ donation, all of a sudden I was like, Oh yes, John carries a donor card But it just did not hit me that my John had died. I was just, I was so proud to say, Oh yes John carries a donor card but the realisation, what did those words mean, what did they mean?
So obviously they knew that all, well it’s not all that obviously they knew, I had to carry out John’s wishes and I didn’t have to make a decision whether I wanted John’s organs to be donated. John had made that clear that that was his wish on his death.
And the one thing that I needed to do, even though I had given the doctor the information that yes John carried a donor card, but the one thing that’s so important for me, was that I’d actually found John’s donor card.
I know that wasn’t necessary for the clinicians at all, but it was so important for me, because we hadn’t talked about organ donation for a long time, and I knew when John was sixteen but this was eight years later. I think somewhere in between those years, there may have been something in the press and we would have talked about it, but we hadn’t for quite some time. And I didn’t think that John would have changed his mind and thought, Oh no and perhaps ripped his card up. But I just needed to find, I wanted to see John’s writing, I just wanted to have it.
And the first thing that I did was to look for John’s card, and I found that and it was so awful because, in as much that I would clean John’s bedroom and I would change his bed and I would clean his windows and all the rest of it. I never went through any of his personal things.
So it was so foreign and just awful, I just needed to do it. So I started with his wallet and it wasn’t in his wallet, but it was actually in his driving licence, inside his driving licence.
Liz and Rick had a casual conversation about organ donation and cremation after watching a TV…
Age at interview 46
First thing I remember was a couple of weeks before Rick actually died. We’d had a conversation. There was an interview done on local television with this couple’s daughter and she’d not been very well. And they were appealing for organ donation. And I’d said to Rick at the time, Oh would you donate your organs And he said yeah he would because there’d be no point in keeping hold of them. But he wanted cremating, not burying. So he felt that your body’s burnt, so the best thing you can do is maybe donate them.
So it was just an observation on the television and that. I didn’t give it five, ten minutes thought. We’d just had this conversation, but when I look back after a couple of weeks later, that gave me the knowledge really to make the decisions that I made.
Lesley and Kristians father had discussed organ donation many years ago. Because theyd talked…
Age at interview 58
The day before we had all started talking about the fact that things hadn’t looked good and we had talked about organ donation. It was something that we’d all talked about as a family, and it had started many years ago with Anthony Nolan and his story.
And my first husband and I at the time were very taken with this story. We were just drawn into it, and just felt so incredibly sorry for this family. And we both joined the register and so, in many ways, that made it easier for us to sort of talk about it at this point.
And I think it was probably on the Saturday, we just had decided that if the worst came to the worst then we would donate Kristian’s organs.
So on the Monday, we stayed with him all through Sunday night, and on Monday the consultant spoke with us and said that there would be a series of tests to determine whether Kristian was brain dead. And those tests would be carried out the following day. And they suggested that we went home and I think it was probably the following day when we went back we spoke with the transplant coordinator.
Lyall wanted to know what a donor card was when he was 8, and carried one as an adult. Jackie…
Age at interview 71
So they took us up to ITU. We met the doctor up there and he reiterated what they’d said down in A&E. And said that, in the morning, they would do the brain tests to confirm that he was brain dead.
I turned to my husband because, when he was about eight, Lyall had gone through my purse and got these cards, What’s this for? What’s that for And I had my organ donor card in there.
And I explained to him about it and said, You know, if anything happens to me, you’ll have to organise it because your Dad will be useless And, because I was in the medical profession, we watched a lot of medical programmes together so he had some idea.
And so I said to, turned to my husband and said, Well look, Lyall had got a donor card. Have you any objection He said, No So I turned round and I said to them, Well, if the worst comes to the worst, we are happy for you to retrieve his organs Because I think there must be nothing worse than having to turn round to a distressed family and ask them. I mean, being a midwife, I’ve quite often had difficult things to tell people but I can think really of nothing worse than that.
Kirstie registered for organ donation before she was given a moped on her 16th birthday. Eunice…
Age at interview 55
[Husband’s name] and I decided that we thought that if we lost Kirstie we wanted to donate her organs because we knew that it was what Kirstie would want to do.
We made our feelings felt to the medical staff at the hospital in [place name]. On the Wednesday again, they pack no punches, they told us that they thought that Kirstie was going to die.
And we discussed the organ donation with our other daughter and with [Kirstie’s partner] as well. And then on the Wednesday evening they told us that they were going to transfer Kirstie up to a London hospital. Which they did overnight on the Wednesday night.
On the Thursday we had a meeting with the medical staff of the intensive care, and again we made it known to them that we would, we wanted to consider, or we were considering donating Kirstie’s organs.
We then had a meeting with the donor co-ordinator and decided what organs we wanted to donate. There was a bit of a conflict between us and [Kirstie’s partner] because he was a bit sceptical. He didn’t know that he really wanted us to donate her organs.
But, as much as I’d said to him from day one, I would always talk to him. We would always discuss everything that needed to be discussed, because I was Kirstie’s next of kin I would overrule, if I wanted something and he didn’t, I would overrule it.
People often say to [my husband] and I how brave we are. We weren’t brave at all. It was Kirstie who was brave and she’d also signed up to the donor register when she was 15 because she had a, we bought her a little moped for her 16th birthday. So she’d applied for her driving licence and she’d filled it in on the driving licence. So she was the brave one, not us. And we just followed her wishes at the end of the day.
Haydns ex-wife agreed to organ donation on the condition that he agreed to a burial service for…
Age at interview 52
The doctor also goes, Have you ever thought about organ donation And I goes, Well yeah, it’s extending Will’s life, I will donate everything He goes Are you sure about that I goes I don’t need to think, half the, you know, whatever amount of people could benefit by that, fine. Will can’t sustain, my reason behind it was, well Will couldn’t sustain life any longer so it’d be a good idea for other people to benefit from that.
Because after I’d known, well Will’s body is just a shell. There was nothing there sort of thing. The spirit had gone, and all we were just looking at is the shell, so recycle the shell sort of thing, it made a lot of sense to me.
I literally signed the forms to say yes lets go for it, but we still had to get hold of his Mum. We decided at that time, I suppose it must have been about quarter to two, quarter to three in the morning, that we would not contact the Mum until the following morning, or [name], my daughter, until the following morning. Give them a good night’s sleep. Will wasn’t going to go anywhere, that’s a certainty.
And so what we did was then, we decided that we’d start doing the phone calls about half seven, eight o’clock to say that Will is clinically dead basically, stem, well what they were saying was Stem Cell dead. So it was a stem cell death it was.
So we started that process. Mum came up. I said Will had passed, there’s just no way is he coming back. She wouldn’t believe it. But I said I wanted two consultants to come along just to check to make sure Will had passed, you know.
She goes, No, no, he’ll be fine And there was just, He was alright a couple of weeks back, although he said he wanted to go on all the.. He’s gone. it’s as simple as that. I just wanted to know the person who dealt him the drugs that’s in his system so I can sort them out, well. Because they’ve also mentioned organ donation. Do you agree to that She says, Well, I’ll only agree to organ donation if you agree to burial. And I’d much prefer to be cremated, even e so I said, Well I’ll compromise on that then. Because I’ll agree to burial if you agree to organ donation So that’s what we did.
Frank and his wife, Jen, had talked about organ donation very casually but she had never…
Age at interview 62
We had discussed it in the past because, you know Jen being a nurse, it was something that, because she did work for a while at the [hospital name], at the kidney unit. She did work there for a while. And I think that brought it home to her and we’d discussed it in, as you do, nothing serious. But she always said, Oh well, that can, whatever of mine they want, they can, they can have in that respect So yes it was something we were aware of. And something that Jen definitely would have, was prepared to do. Yeah, there’s no doubt about that. I think working at the [hospital name] for that time, seeing people on dialysis and all the rest of it, I think that brought it home.
The day after they’d removed her organs, my son had actually gone to the hospital to get the paperwork sorted out. And he was approached by a member of the neurological team and they asked if he would be, or we would be prepared to give permission for them to remove Jen’s brain and part of her spinal column for research into Motor Neurone. Well [my son] knew our feelings so, without even having to consult myself, he said, Yeah go ahead
So although her death in some ways was a tragedy, in other ways it was a victory because I lost Jen but she saved two. So we came out on top as it were. The odds were on our side. I know it’s what Jen would have wanted. She’d spent her whole life caring for other people.
But, like so many people, I don’t think she’d ever got round to doing the donor card. I think she’d put it on her driving licence because there was an option on that. But I can’t remember if she ever got round to doing a donor card as such. I’ve done mine on line now because that’s far easier for the hospital to check. All they’ve got to do is just go on line, everything’s there.
Martin wanted to be a nurse. Sue feels strongly that he would have wanted to donate. Later, she…
Age at interview 51
Martin went to theatre and came back to ICU. And then the bleed started again. So he went back to theatre again. And when he came back that time, we were told that the bleed was just too extensive and there was nothing that could be done.
We were asked immediately if we had ever considered organ donation. We had, as a family, considered organ donation and I know that my husband and myself were already on the organ donor register. Our children weren’t because they were children. We hadn’t actually considered that this was ever going to happen. It was something completely out of the blue.
However, Martin had always wanted to nurse, and we believed and I still believe that it would have been his wish to have done something, if he could. My belief was, even at that point, that if I could save any other mother going through what I was going through, then that was something positive to come out of it. So we immediately agreed.
Martin was then put on life support for the next 36 hours while my husband travelled home [from America], before the retrieval could take place. He was looked after absolutely fantastically by all the hospital staff. And we were looked after as well. We met the donor co-ordinator who explained all the system to us, and kept us informed right throughout the day when she was making enquiries as to potential recipients.
We signed all the paperwork, which was probably the worst point for me because it takes such a long time. You have to sign for each organ individually, and then you have to say whether, if the organ isn’t suitable for donation, whether you’ll agree for it to be taken anyway for research. Which we didn’t agree to at that time.
All I wanted to do was get back to sit with Martin. But these things can’t be hurried and we had to sit and fill it all in. It was about 8 o’clock on the Thursday evening by the time he actually went for the retrieval of the organs. All of his organs were used, apart from his pancreas, which apparently had deteriorated because he was on life support for a long time.
We know that his heart went to a fifteen year old boy, who had only hours to live. And we know that his liver went to a young man with a young family who also was at home waiting to die. At that point it didn’t actually give me any comfort. Because it was far too early.
We came home and I’ve never ever regretted the decision we made. It was the most tremendous tragedy for our family to lose a child who was only 16. But whatever decision we made that day was not going to change what happened to us that day. Martin was not going to make it, whether we said yes or no. But by saying yes we have changed the lives of a number of people and their families and friends.
Natalie and Mick felt that organ donation was something their son would have wanted. Other…
Age at interview 53
Did they approach you when they wanted to talk to you about organ donation? Or was it a subject that you’d already,
Natalie’ No, it was the doctor that said, wasn’t it?
Mick’ Yeah, they approached us and asked if we’d like to consider it. And we said we’d like time to think about it at first. And then we sort of, they took us to another room so we could have time to think about it while they went away. And they came back about ten minutes to fifteen minutes later, and then they asked us what we’d decided. And that’s when we both agreed and they had to go ahead with it.
Natalie’ We thought that’s what he would have wanted. And then we had, I mean he was only eight. We hadn’t talked about it.
Natalie’ But we thought, you know, it’s what he would have wanted.
Was it ever a subject that came up with any of the family members? Had it ever, you know had you ever discussed the subject before?
Natalie’ No, not before. No.
No. I think some of the other members of the family were a little bit surprised that we chose to do it. But, after a bit, realised it was what we wanted. And then, like I say, they thought like we did as its more about what our son would have wanted to. And that’s when, you know, and they were all happy with it and everything.
Linda believed her husband, John, would have wanted to donate. She felt strongly that families…
Age at interview 48
At the end of that conversation organ donation was mentioned, almost thrown in. And I don’t know if that’s down to people being sensitive or if it was just how that particular person just didn’t want to, you know, be full on and what have you. It may have been his way of saying it, but I basically said that I was happy to talk to somebody to find out more.
I’ve always carried a donor card from the year dot, however old you’re allowed to be when you say that you will become an organ donor. I’ve had an organ donation card. The thing that I didn’t know was whether or not John would agree with organ donation.
So my message, my biggest message, would be for people to talk about organ donation. To talk about their wishes, and of course their wishes might be that they would not wish to be an organ donor, which is fine. it’s a free country and we’re entitled to our opinions.
But I think I was in the middle of the most terrible, terrible situation, nobody could help me with that. We knew that we were going to lose John, and I was going to have to make the decision that I didn’t know if he would agree with. And I think that’s my biggest thing, has been my biggest thing, about the need to communicate. And to communicate with those around you so that actually if they were ever in that situation, they don’t have that extra bit, they need to be thinking about in terms of, well do we make those decisions or don’t we? The decision’s already been made.
I know from what I understand people can still decline the organ donation on behalf of their relative, but I wouldn’t imagine that happens very often, because the whole point is that you would want to carry out your loved one’s wishes. So, from my point of view, yeah that would be my biggest messages, is actually let those around you know what your wishes are.
I’m happy that basically John did become a donor, and I’m ninety nine point whatever percent sure that he would be happy with the decision that we made because he basically was a good, kind man who was logical; who would, I am sure, say, Well, you know if I’m heading out of this world, and bits of me can be used to give other people life, then, or a better quality of life, then that’s got to be the a good thing. So I’ve never regretted it. I’ve never felt that I made the wrong decision.
Liz wanted to carry out Ricks wishes to donate but was worried his family might misunderstand…
Age at interview 46
The only other thing that I was worried about was the rest of his [husband’s] family. I’m talking about this to the co-ordinator [specialist nurse] about giving his, letting them take his organs, and he’s not dead as yet, or official. And so you’re always thinking you’re one step ahead and then you’re also thinking well his Mum’s there, his brothers are there, his sister’s there. Everybody who loves him. When all of a sudden they’re going to be confronted with this information that, you know, that Liz has given permission for Rick’s organs to be donated.
So I got [the specialist nurse], I asked her to talk to them because I wanted it to come from a professional point of view instead of just, you have these visions of barging into his room and saying, Well, you know, he’s got to have these brain stem tests, and if he’s dead then he’s donating his organs It would be too abrupt. It would be too much information because all you want to do is, for this machine to be turned off and somebody to start breathing again. That’s all you want.
So she helped me with that. We all sat in the room together with the doctors. They explained the brain tests and they also explained that they didn’t expect Rick to live. And then they explained about organ co-ordination, and that he’d expressed before he died that’s what one of his wishes would be and they’d discussed it with me.
And it gave the rest of the family an opportunity to ask questions, which was a big thing. It was a big thing for me because I didn’t want his family to think that I was making all these decisions because it’s like, that’s his mother. I’m his wife, okay I am his next of kin but that’s still his mother. And everybody knows how mothers feel about their children.
Some people we interviewed had not been asked about the possibility of organ donation by doctors, so they approached them themselves. Ann, whose son Mike had had learning difficulties, said she’d made many decisions on his behalf throughout his life. The whole family agreed with her when it came to consenting to organ donation.
Ann consented to organ donation so that her sons organs could help other people to live. She…
I made the decision, I said yes. I spoke to other family members and they all said, If that’s what you want to do, we’ll go with that Nobody had said, No we don’t want to for any reason. We all felt that that was the right thing to do.
In some ways, for me, having our son as he was, I’d had to make decisions for him most of his life anyway. So that was something that came natural to me. But I feel very strongly if someone had said your son could have an organ transplant and he would live, I would have taken it with open arms. And I think, if you’re prepared to take it, then you’ve got to be prepared to give it as well. I’d hate to think that I was the cause of somebody not living because I was too selfish or upset not to go with that.
it’s probably an unusual situation that a parent decides for a child, or especially a man, usually people would make their own decisions on that. But I always tried to do the best for my son as I saw fit and I thought that was something that would bring a real meaning for him. He couldn’t do many things but he could do that and that’s something better than most people do I think.
Ann had to ask the doctor herself about organ donation and wondered if this was because her son…
As a family, we’d never really discussed organ donation. But I made the decision myself that I would donate my son’s organs. Then I said to my husband, Well, you know, we’re going to have to decide, when they ask us about donating the organs
They didn’t ask, so we were sitting there and sitting there and eventually a consultant came along and he was telling us that we would have to turn off the life support. And it isn’t a case of if, but when. And that actually the decision is his, not ours to make. We thought it was our decision. But it’s actually their decision. And we were told that if we didn’t do that, we wouldn’t be prolonging his life, we’d be prolonging his death.
So you can imagine that all your emotions are in turmoil and you’re feeling as though you’re on another planet. And then I said to the consultant, Well what about donating organs And he looked at me as if to say, Well what on earth do I do now He seemed surprised and whether it’s because our son had learning difficulties or whatever, I think that was the main reason that nobody approached us. But, because we asked the question, they started putting the wheels in motion.
No one broached the subject with us. As I said, I think it was mainly because our son had learning difficulties that they just assumed somehow, for some reason, we wouldn’t donate organs. But apparently it’s very rare for people to be asked. Staff just don’t know how to do it. They don’t know how to approach it. And if they don’t ask, the chance is gone.
You can’t go back the next day and say Oh you know, we thought about donating the organs it’s something that has to be done then. So I feel very strongly that it would be a good thing if all A&E staff had meetings such as we have, so that they can get to understand what it’s like. It must be very difficult for them, I appreciate that.
And you said that you mentioned it to the consultant yourself?
And he was a bit taken aback?
He looked very surprised. He looked as if to say, Oh xxxx!, I’m going to have to do something about this now And he looked a bit flummoxed and then said, Okay, well I’ll go and see what I can do Really it should all have been set up. I feel they should have had a system in place for this because it must happen all the time. But they obviously didn’t.
How long ago was this?
It was in 2006.
Although Paul had been ill most of his life, he was able to donate his kidneys and liver. Paul…
Age at interview 54
It was all arranged quickly, and his blood was taken and Paul was fully aware that that’s what was happening on that day [giving blood for research]. And we also asked if Paul could be considered for transplants, even though we knew he was, he’d been so ill we didn’t think it would really happen.
But they said they would find out for us, and later on that day the transplant team came through, the co-ordinators came to speak to us. Took some information, went to speak to the doctors, and then came back to us and said yes Paul would be a candidate, and they told us that they could probably use his kidneys and his liver. Because of the diabetic damage obviously to his eyes and other parts of his body, they wouldn’t be able to use certain parts, his pancreas obviously. But they would be very happy to use the liver and the kidneys.
We knew Paul would want this to happen because he’d always carried the card as a young man and, even though in his later years he wasn’t able to do that, we didn’t have any doubt that he would want to help others, just as he had with giving his blood to the Wolfram family for the research.
So we waited and waited that night. It was a long night because the transplant team had to come from [place name] I believe it was. And they didn’t come until one o’clock in the morning. All during the evening the transplant co-ordinators were coming to us, we had a little room of our own. Paul was asleep on the intensive care unit and we kept going through to speak to him even though he wasn’t awake. And they told us they would be ready in the early hours of the morning to remove the tube.
Many people we talked to praised the information and support they had from the organ donation specialist nurse and said they were assured they could talk to her as long and as often as they needed. They were also assured that they could change their minds at any point. With the specialist nurse, donor families discussed which organs they would be willing to consent to donating. Sometimes an organ was not suitable for transplantation but could be used to further medical research.
Craig and Sandra felt that donating corneas would make a big difference to someones life. At the…
Age at interview 44
Sandra’ The bit I found quite daunting, but at the time I’ve got to say it’s the kind of paperwork you have to do. You don’t realise just how much paperwork you have to go through. We’ve committed to organ donation, that kind of, I felt was a lot. I know I can understand now, but at the time it was quite long and drawn out. And they’re asking all these kind of different questions. I mean even me, at that point, I was thinking, They need your organs I didn’t think about tissue donation at that point, but obviously that’s something as well that came into it.
So you’ve got to go through all these things, whether you want to donate your heart, the lungs, they go through all the organs, through all the tissues, and Rachel had asked that her eyes weren’t used because she thought…
Craig’ I think it was because it just said on the donor card doesn’t it? It says on the donor, you know, if you look at a donor card it will say, Lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, and eyes And she says Take out that bit, they’re not taking my eyes It was just, she’d a kind of brown fleck in her eyes.
Sandra’ Wee Madeline McCann, you know that kind if thing. And she was dead proud of that.
Craig’ Yeah, she had blue eyes but one eye had a brown fleck, just a wee stripe wasn’t it?
Sandra’ A ha.
Craig’ She says, I don’t want anybody to touch my eyes And I said, Oh, that’ll, that’ll never happen, so you don’t need to worry about that
Sandra’ And I think that kind of came from me as well because, as a kind of Catholic upbringing and obviously kind of silly, you’re told the eyes are the gateway to the soul. And said, You know we’ve always talked about organ donation in front of the kids, and not my eyes, not my eyes So I think in a way that kind of came, but I now kind of regret that a bit because I think that’s something that people tend to not do, and I think that’s something…
Craig’ It’ll make somebody’s life a lot…
Sandra’ and make a huge difference. But under these circumstances obviously, as I say, you’re not thinking straight. You know with all the things, but I do, that’s one of the things I do regret not doing. And I think if Rachel thought about it, she would have done it anyway. But, as I say, I think she kind of followed onto it, she was just listening to what Mum said about that.
A specialist nurse explains what the organ donation consent forms cover and how long they might…
Should somebody have a wish to consider organ donation, they may have made that decision in their lifetime, they may have signed up to the organ donor register, carried a donor card around, or indeed had a conversation with their family members.
We still go through a formal consent process with the family, next of kin, whoever that is at the hospital at that time. And that varies very much from, it maybe a partner or a spouse; it may be a child or a parent depending on the age of the donor. It may well be a friend of longstanding who knows that person, but they are in the position to make that decision for them.
So we go through the formal paperwork, which involves talking about the different organs that they may be able to donate. There’s also some special tissues which can be donated as well, and we’ll go through that with them. And then, at that time, they’ll also discuss their options as to whether or not they would want to be included in any research programmes, because there are one or two special research programmes as well, which are again looking towards helping other people with regards to different programmes that are available.
How long would the whole process take, going through all the forms?
The actual filling in of the consent forms and the process is a two way conversation so I would say at a minimum it probably takes twenty minutes to do the paperwork, making sure that the family have all the absolutely necessary information. But depending on the questions that they have, we will give them as much time as they would require. And that can, at times, run into hours.
Although the nurse was kind and compassionate, Ann felt the forms were difficult to go through at…
After a while, the transplant co-ordinator came to see us and she had a long talk with us. That was one of the worst parts of the whole experience because we’d already made the decision to donate the organs. Really I would have preferred to just be able to sign a form saying we have agreed to this, and we understand we could have been told all the details but we don’t wish to know all the details. We just agree to it.
But, instead of that, we had to sit through her telling us very kindly, very nicely, as compassionate as she could possibly be, but she still had to tell us in detail how and when everything would be done. Which is a hard thing to listen to.
You mentioned that ideally those forms could be much shorter and simpler?
Well, I think there should be two sets of forms. There could be a form that sets out everything and, if you wish, you can go through everything like that. But for us, we had made the decision. We would have been happy to sign a disclaimer to say we understand we are signing this. We have not read the full details of the operations involved because we don’t wish to know those details. We give our consent in trusting that due care and consideration will be taken. Something along those lines.
Obviously, you want your loved one to be treated with respect and everything to be done above board. But you don’t actually need to know how they were going to do everything. I don’t feel that you need to know that. But, with the law as it stands, you have to be told everything. I think there could be two forms. Some people would need or want to know everything, and others like us would prefer just to sign and say, Yes, okay. We agree to it And that would be an end to it.
Eunice has never regretted consenting to organ donation. On a bad day, it helps her to know that…
Age at interview 55
We were lucky, we made that decision, we wasn’t asked. Had Kirstie died on the Tuesday when she had her accident and somebody had come along and said to me, Will you donate her organs I don’t know how I would have reacted, because we had five days to come to terms with what was happening and say our goodbyes and make all our decisions.
But for somebody who walks into a hospital to be told a loved one has passed away and that they’ve got them on a breathing machine or whatever, to have to make a decision like that is something totally different.
We’re all glad that we’ve done it. And sometimes it’s what gets me up in the mornings. If I’m having a bad day, it’s what gets me up in the mornings, knowing that there is something of Kirstie still out there. She gave the gift of life which is, what it is, to five other people and their families. And it is the families as well because they have been involved in hospital visits and all the trauma that goes with it. So it gives them a new lease of life as well. So yeah, she’s out there somewhere and doing good.