Culture and Organ Donation
With no means at present to replace or adequately repair vital organs when they fail except through transplantation, it is clear that organ donation to provide the organs for procurement is at present the best and most ethical means for saving lives. Since the need for organs to be used for transplantation is greater than what is currently made available, there is pressure on those who facilitate the procurement of organs to do a better job. To do a better job though can be a challenge. It depends so much on the willingness of the public to want to donate their organs after their death for transplant. For those who provide an advance directive of their wishes to donate, their directive is hopefully followed. Hopefully, because though there is in the United States laws requiring such a directive to be followed, there are stories of families, after the death of their loved one, rejecting the directive and the organ procurement organization following the family’s wishes. The organs that are obtained after death of a member who had no directive are obtained because the families have agreed to the donation. The challenge to those requesting that the family agrees to donation is that the request is made at a very difficult time, at a time of expected or often unexpected loss that has not yet been fully emotionally accepted. In addition families may be confused about what the procurement process is all about, particularly when matters of “brain death” and death after life-support has been removed is discussed.
How a family might react to a request for donation is also related to the culture of the family and the associated beliefs both through cultural background and religion. It is apparent that in some cultures, it is the family that first receives the bad news of their member’s illness and the family makes all the decisions. In some cultures, invasion of the body of the deceased would be considered desecration and in other cultures there is attention to the matter of what is called “death”.
The request is made more delicate by the way the request is made and the degree of skill, understanding of the family’s views despite a different cultural background of the person making the request.
I bring up this topic of the role of culture and beliefs in the process of organ donation because in most hospitals within the United States, the patients and families are multi-cultural and so it is not at all unusual for cultural factors to be involved in whether organs can be obtained. For more details of the effect of culture on organ donations and the considerations that those who request donations from patients or families must take into account,go to this
Since, I see from my Sitemeter that I am getting visitors to my blog, not only from the United States but from around the world, I wonder how someone from Nigeria or South America or Japan or Saudi Arabia or other countries looks at organ donation after death and how their culture could affect their decisions either for themselves or as a family member. Any comments? ..Maurice.