Differences in the procurement of organs and tissues by health care professionals

L A Siminoff, R Arnold, D S Miller
Clinical Transplantation 1994, 8 (5): 460-5

BACKGROUND: The act of donating organs is familiar to most health care professionals (HCPs). However, the process of tissue and cornea donation is not nearly as well known. Most studies of the donation process have neglected the issue of tissue and cornea donation. This study offers some preliminary data concerning the differences between organ and tissue and cornea donation processes. As well, this is one of the first studies to report an eligibility rate for tissues among hospital deaths.

METHODS: During a 5-month period in 1989, the charts of all patients (n = 233) who died in the study hospital were reviewed on a weekly basis to establish eligibility to donate organs, tissues and corneas. A case series of 50 eligible patients cases was selected for in-depth interviews. Cases were defined as those patients who were eligible to donate tissues or organs. The patient's attending physician, house officer, and primary nurse were interviewed using an open-ended interview format. These audiotaped interviews focused on the events surrounding the patient's death, focusing on the issue of donation. We also collected information concerning HCP knowledge of the medical criteria for donation and their attitudes toward donation. Consent was obtained from all HCPs before beginning the interview process.

RESULTS: Of the 233 deaths, 4.3% were eligible to donate organs, 11.2% were eligible to donate tissues, and 18.9% were eligible to donate corneas. On the basis of our interview data we found that all eligible organ donors were identified and their families asked by at least one member of the patient's health care team to consider donation. HCPs were less successful identifying tissue patients: 30 of the 41 tissue donors (73.2%) were identified and only 65.9% of donor families were asked to donate. Rates of consent to donation were lower than might be expected based on public opinion polls. 33.3% of families consented to organ donation while only 29.6% consented to donate tissue and cornea.

CONCLUSION: HCPs performed less efficiently in terms of the procurement process for tissues and corneas as compared to organs. They were also less knowledgeable about the donation criteria for tissues and corneas than organs. They generally exhibited more positive attitudes about corneal donation. More education of HCPs is necessary before we can optimally procure tissues for transplantation.


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