Hope for a peaceful death and organ donation

  • Holly Louise Northam

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The therapeutic, social and economic benefits of organ transplantation are irrefutable; however, organ shortages contribute to avoidable patient deaths and burgeoning health care costs. This problem can be addressed by increasing family consent to deceased organ donation. There are high levels of community support for deceased organ donation in Australia and yet, almost fifty percent of families decline the request to donate. Increasing the number of families who agree to deceased organ donation is key to increasing national and international transplantation rates. The purpose of this study was to identify the major factors that influence a family to agree or decline deceased organ donation during the process of decision-making. The aims of the study were three-fold: to identify the key stages and the major influencers’ in the decision making process; to determine if hope, deep hope and trust played a role in the decision, and to explore families’ perceptions of their decision-making experience. The study utilised an exploratory case study approach to examine the family decision making process of deceased organ donation. Following ethics approval, recruitment was conducted utilising a qualitative purposive snowball strategy across Australia. A pilot study was conducted to test the study procedures prior to the main data collection, and 22 participants who had been involved in a deceased organ donation decision from nine families were interviewed. In five deaths family members had agreed to organ donation, and in four deaths the family declined. A theoretical framework based on the Precaution Adoption Process Model of decision-making was applied to propose trust, hope and deep hope underpin family organ donation decisions. Thematic analysis was conducted and three key themes comprising ‘In the fog drowning’, ‘Harvesting humanity’, and ‘It’s all up to Mum’ were revealed. The study found women, and in particular mothers, played a significant role in organ donation decision-making, and that the decision-making is bounded by family needs of trust, hope and deep hope across the continuum of time. It also found families who had their trust, hope and deep hope needs met expressed satisfaction about their decision-making experience and agreed to organ donation. Some families perceived that organ donation was a sacrifice that was too great to endure, even if the deceased had previously indicated intent to donate, and therefore declined donation. This study found that families’ ideas of a peaceful death and organ donation are not mutually exclusive. It concludes that when decision-makers’ trust and deep hope needs are met they are more willing to agree to donation. This study recommends that the idea of a ‘right’ to a peaceful death should be aligned with deceased organ donation practices and normalised.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMary Cruickshank (Supervisor), Gylo Hercelinskyj (Supervisor) & Kristen Ranse (Supervisor)

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