Working With Families of Potential Donors
Clear communication with the family or next-of-kin is essential to helping them understand brain death and their options for organ donation. We work collaboratively with the medical and nursing teams to facilitate and coordinate this communication.
Families need information and answers to their questions before being able to process information about organ or tissue donation. It is also critical to have an understanding of family dynamics and identification of the legal next-of-kin as that person may be different than the person making health care decisions. Some points or questions that are essential to the decision-making process:
- What happened to their loved one? What is the nature of the injury to the brain and the patient’s prognosis?
- What is being done to care for their loved one or to save his or her life?
- Family members need to be able to see their loved one.
- Family members need to detailed information and time to understand “brain death” concepts before any mention of donation.
- Explanations and information often need to be given more than one time to family members.
Donation option should only be presented by FLDRN after the family understands their loved one is dead.
An Organ Procurement Coordinator or a Family Services Coordinator from the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network (FLDRN) will offer the opportunity for donation at the appropriate time – only after the family understands their loved one is dead. Prior to discussion of donation, the following are critical:
- Prevent unplanned or premature mentions of donation by hospital care team.
- Ensure that the grave prognosis is communicated to family with a consistent message from hospital care team:
“We are doing everything we can to save John’s life.”
“John is not responding to our treatments as we had hoped.”
“We are initiating some tests to evaluate John’s brain function”
“We have competed the tests. John’s brain is no longer functioning. He has been declared dead.”
- Make sure that family demonstrates understanding of patient’s prognosis and brain death before any mention of donation.
- FLDRN staff explain donation options to family and work collaboratively with hospital staff to support family.