The donation process
Tissue transplantation not only benefits recipients, often saving their lives, but it also affects the lives of those left behind, the donor’s families. Donor relatives make donations possible. Were it not for their understanding and generosity, recipients would not have the opportunity to receive this gift.
Since its inception, the Hospital Development department educates hospital staff on the process of referring potential donors and also ensures that hospitals comply with state and federal legislation. Along with these efforts, this department provides immediate follow up to hospitals after a referral results in a tissue donation.
We receive donor referrals from hospitals and from medical examiners, coroners, the organ recovery agency and the eye banks serving the state. Referral calls are made to a central donor referral line where callers are asked several questions about the potential donor. The donor family advocate on call is paged and will then follow up with the referring facility to determine if donation options can be offered to the next of kin.
We work collaboratively with the other recovery agencies in the region to ensure that the next of kin’s wishes for donation are honored whenever possible. This cooperative effort facilitates easy donor referral and comprehensive donor evaluation.
Consent and working with families
Our intentions when approaching a family about donation is to offer an informed choice and to support their decision, whether they choose to consent or not. Families are given time to think about the options offered to them and to ask questions. If they choose to donate, the next of kin is asked to sign a consent document. An informed consent must include the specific organs and tissues the family wishes to donate, a statement regarding the intended use for the tissues (transplantation, advancement of medical science and education, or research), and information regarding infectious disease testing to be performed. Consent may be obtained by a donor family advocate from any of the recovery agencies.
Selection and coordination
Donor selection is based initially on information available at the time of the death. This includes a review of the available medical records, discussion with medical staff, and a next of kin interview using a standardized screening form. The interview may be performed at a later time if the family is unable to complete it at the time of the donation. Donor family advocates determine preliminary suitability and schedule the recovery of tissues which are then placed in quarantine while donor evaluation is completed.
Trained donor family advocates are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, through a toll-free number (1-800-255-4483), to provide support services to hospital staff and to facilitate the donation process.