I work with a lot of potential organ donor patients. I have been very surprised at the number of people who refuse to donate their loved one's organs. They usually say they are afraid of "experimentation", and some have some very strong religious convictions, which I wholeheartedly respect. We don't handle the organ donation part- COPA (or CDS) does that, so I only hear what they tell the COPA folks- donation discussionw ith me are only done after the decision has been made to go ahead. If they don't want to- I say nothing and take care oftheir family member in the same way as before.
A nurse friend of mine in Austria tells me that in Austria Everyone is considered an Organ Donor unless they sign a card saying- No, I don't want to be a donor. They have a much shorter waiting list, and not such a shortage of Organs. Of course, Austria is also a small country (size) compared tot he U.S. I don't think our Organ policies will ever change that drastically, but I am curious about what everyone thinks of the Austrian policy- Is it fair? and also, how many of us are organ donors? (I am)
Oct 4, '00
I'm an organ donor as well as being on the bone marrow list and 3+gallons blood to the Red Cross. As most nurses know it is important that your next of kin know you want to be a donor also.
The Austrian system seems fair to me as long as the people know this.
I have cared for many Jehovah's Witness patients receiving bloodless surgery. They and their families have all (so far) been wonderful people. I however wish more organs were available.
Oct 7, '00
In Washington state it is mandatory for us to ask each patient's family about organ donation. Even if they do not qualify for organ donation; skin,eye or bone may be harvested. It has increased the number of potential donors and has made us more experienced at asking. I think this is a good idea, as so many people are waiting....
Oct 8, '00
To the above poster.
We do exactly the same thing but we have a state agency staffed by RN's that do the asking. this is because several years back several families complained that they felt their family member would not get good care if they did not want to donate organs etc. I agree. Every potential donor's family should be approached. Donation has actually changed so many families view about he unfortunate passing of their loved one.
Oct 10, '00
I work in Oregon and we have the same mandatory request policy as Washington ( belive this is a policy of Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank, our transplant facilitators for OR, WA, ID & AK). The facility I work at has a 100% compliance rate and has for the last 1.5 yrs since this policy went into effect. However, we have only had 5 multiple-organ donor patients in that same time frame. I feel that this is due to overly strict "death" criteria by our transplant bank. We have had many patients whose family members wished them to be donors but due to questionable "death" criteria ( a trace of brainstem activity w/o any voluntary responses) the patients were refused, only to be extubated and immediate death ensued. I realize that some religions "portray" a lack of belief in organ donation, but if your research the subject, very few really do. Most families I have made the request of ( we go thru specialized training to be a requester) have been openly receptive to the subject and feel that it is a possible positive outcome to a very negative situation. Don't ever deny a family to make the choice for themselves, they can always surprise you and you may be taking away not only a right, but chance for them to help someone else as well.
Dawn RN, ICU
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