Some Organ Donor Families Would Change Their Minds If Asked Again

March 20, 1998

Investigators from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Mid-America Transplant Services have found that a significant number of organ donor families would not donate their loved one's organs if asked to do so again.

The researchers also found that a significant portion of families who chose not to donate would change their minds and give consent if the opportunity arose again. The findings, reported in the March issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, show that about one in five families would do things differently the next time around.

Organs and tissues procured from one donor can save the lives of up to seven people. More than 50 thousand are waiting for kidneys, hearts, livers and other organs in the United States, and of those, one person dies every nine minutes, still waiting.

"At a time when there is a real scarcity of donated organs and tissues in this country, it's not to anyone's advantage to have people feeling they did not do the right thing," said Barry A. Hong, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and medicine at the School of Medicine.

Hong's research team surveyed 225 family members who had been approached about donating the organs of a relative. Regardless of their decision, family members were surveyed at least one year after the experience.

Of those surveyed, 178 were satisfied with their decision. Another 47 reported they were not. Of those, 22 were donor family members who said they would not donate again. The remaining 25 were non-donor family members who would now donate if given the opportunity.

"I'm concerned that 20 percent of these people think they should have done something else," Hong said. "That's a sizable proportion, and I think it's one that should be worrisome to the transplant community."

Hong and colleagues looked at numerous factors, including previous knowledge of transplantation, the request process, characteristics of the deceased and medical/hospital factors. "We thought that looking at all of the factors together would give us a more realistic idea of what influences both the decision regarding donation and the satisfaction with that decision," Hong said.

Those who were comfortable with their decisions to donate tended to be more highly educated and had previously discussed the issue with their families. In fact, prior discussion was one of the most important factors involved both in donation and in later satisfaction. According to Hong, people who want to donate their organs at the time of death can ease the burden on family members by making those intentions clear. Families must consent to donation, regardless of whether a donor card has been signed, and those families who were most satisfied were certain they were following the wishes of their loved ones.

Surprisingly, religion was an important factor influencing satisfaction. The researchers found that those who chose to donate but later were dissatisfied tended to go to church more often and to be more religious than those who were satisfied. Hong is not sure why, but says the issue warrants further investigation.

The researchers also found that the larger the number of family members involved in the decision, the less likely a donation would occur. Families are more likely to agree to donate when their loved one is at a community hospital than at a larger university medical center. How many people approached the family about donation also was a factor. Being approached by several health care workers made family members leery.

"How you're asked, who does the asking, how sensitive they are to the problems going on in the family: those are very important issues, and I'm not sure we give those issues enough attention," Hong said.

What happens after a donation may be just as important to the family's ultimate peace of mind. Hong believes it is critical that both the families who consent to donate and those who refuse receive support for their decision.

"I think sometimes families are curious where the organs went and whether they helped to save someone, and I think some things could and should be done to assure donor families that their loved one helped save lives," Hong said.

Center for Advancing Health

Related Decision Articles from Brightsurf:

Knowing the model you can trust - the key to better decision-making
As much of Europe is engulfed by a second wave of Covid-19, and track and trace struggles to meet demand, modelling support tools are being increasingly used by policymakers to make key decisions.

Happy endings trip up the brain's decision-making
The brain keeps track of the value of an experience as well as how it unfolds over time; overemphasizing the ending may trigger poor decision-making, according to new research published in JNeurosci.

Automatic decision-making prevents us harming others - new study
The processes our brains use to avoid harming other people are automatic and reflexive - and quite different from those used when avoiding harm to ourselves, according to new research.

Mapping the decision-making pathways in the brain
Scientists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have identified a new area of the brain that could be involved in cost-benefit decision-making.

How the brain's internal states affect decision-making
By recording the activity of separate populations of neurons simultaneously, researchers have gained an unprecedented insight into how the 'waxing and waning' of our mental state influences the decisions we make.

Youth more likely to stick with CGM if they are part of decision to start
In a new study published in Diabetes Care, researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have found that youth who are involved with the decision to start CGM are more likely to continue using the monitoring technology more than two months after starting.

Motherhood overrides the brain's decision-making
Motherhood takes over the brain's decision-making regions to prioritize caring for offspring, according to new research in rats published in eNeuro.

Why visual perception is a decision process
A popular theory in neuroscience called predictive coding proposes that the brain produces all the time expectations that are compared with incoming information.

People may know the best decision -- and not make it
When faced with a decision, people may know which choice gives them the best chance of success, but still take the other option, a new study suggests.

Illuminating interactions between decision-making and the environment
Employing a game theory model, University of Pennsylvania researchers demonstrate how strategic decisions influence the environment in which those decisions are made, alterations which in turn influence strategy.

Read More: Decision News and Decision Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to