Effective communication between the potential donor family and the medical staff is essential. Families often do not fully understand explanations about diagnosis or treatment when the healthcare provider relies on medical jargon and fails to clearly and simply explain details. If family members are intimidated by the medical staff, they may reluctantly agree to treatment options that they do not fully understand. Families must not only receive a thorough explanation, but also verbalize their understanding of what is happening to the patient. This may mean sitting with a family, answering questions, and addressing their concerns. Only when family members feel they know exactly what is happening, do they develop a trust in the medical personnel involved in the patient's care.
Physicians and other medical staff may feel they cannot afford the time to sit and speak in depth with families. When this happens, trust is not established and it becomes very difficult for family members to believe that treatments are being performed in the best interest of their loved one.
Among the factors that bear consideration during the pre-donation family evaluation are specific relationships to the patient, religious and cultural beliefs, the family's stage of grief, and any emotional responses and language barriers.
Families are often uncertain whether their religious beliefs support the decision to donate. The OPR can assure the family that almost all religions in the United States either support or encourage organ and tissue donation. If the family has a clergy member available, he or she is frequently consulted for guidance and counsel. For families practicing a religion that does not support organ donation, a decision consistent with those beliefs should be supported by the OPR and hospital staff.
The following list explains religious considerations in tissue and organ donation and transplantation:16
Amish: Organ donation and transplantation are acceptable, but the Amish are reluctant to donate their organs if the transplant outcome is questionable. Assemblies of God: There is no position. Baptist: Organ donation is encouraged.
Buddhist Organ donation is an individual decision. Those who donate their bodies and organs for the advancement of medical science are honored.
Catholic Organ donation and transplantation are acceptable.
Disciples of Christ Organ donation is an individual decision.
Christian Reformed: Members are urged to support the Anatomical Gift Act.
Church of the Brethren: Organ donation is encouraged.
Church of Christ Organ donation is an individual decision.
Christian Scientists: Normally rely on spiritual, rather than medical means for healing. However, organ donation is an individual decision.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: Organ donation is an individual decision.
Episcopal Church: The Church does not object to donation as long as it is done reverently.
Greek Orthodox Church: Donation is not consistent with traditional Orthodox practice and belief.
Gypsies: Gypsies are opposed to organ donation. Although they have no formal resolution, their opposition is associated with their belief about the afterlife. Gypsies believe that for one year after a person dies, the soul retraces its steps. All of the body parts must be intact because the soul maintains a physical shape.
Hindu: Organ donation is an individual decision.
Islam: In 1983, the Moslem religious council initially rejected organ donation by followers of Islam, but it has reversed its position, provided donors consent in writing prior to their death. The organs of Moslem donors must be transplanted immediately and should not be stored in organ banks. Jehovah's Witnesses: Organ donation is an individual decision. All organs and tissue must be completely drained of blood before transplantation. Jewish: Judaism teaches that saving a human life through donation is a mitzvah (good deed) and that if you are in a position to save a human life, you must do so.
Lutheran Church: Organ donation is an individual decision. Mennonite Church: Organ donation and transplantation are acceptable. Methodist Church: Organ donation is encouraged. Presbyterian Church: There is no position.
Protestant: Protestants encourage and endorse organ donation. The Protestant faith respects an individual's conscience and a person's right to make decisions regarding his or her own body.
Quaker Religious Society: Organ donation is an individual decision. Seventh-DayAdventists: Organ donation and transplantation are acceptable.
The United States is a very culturally diverse country, and as a result, many potential organ and tissue donors are of varying nationalities and cultural backgrounds. The basic tenets of life, death, and grieving vary widely among cultures. There is no "normal" or "right" way to grieve. It is possible to approach one family that is "celebrating" the death of a loved one, while approaching another family could mean trying to speak with a next of kin that is thrashing about in grief. Families must not be judged by the way they grieve, but instead be given the opportunity to do so in the way most comforting to them.
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