'It can give bereaved families hope': Let’s talk about organ donation

Becoming an organ donor can have a “transformational change” on the lives of the recipients also, many of whom may be on dialysis or may need a heart, liver or lung transplant.
'It can give bereaved families hope': Let’s talk about organ donation

Dr Catherine Motherway, a Cork native who is the Clinical Lead of Organ Donation Transplant Ireland, said that having the conversation can help a family whose loved one has passed away in following through with their loved ones’ wishes.

AN intensive care consultant has highlighted the importance of having a conversation about organ donation with loved ones.

Dr Catherine Motherway, a Cork native who is the Clinical Lead of Organ Donation Transplant Ireland, said that having the conversation can help a family whose loved one has passed away in following through with their loved ones’ wishes.

Speaking to The Echo on Organ Donor Awareness Week, Dr Motherway said: “I work in an intensive care unit and it’s something that I can offer people at the end of life. Most of the time when you come into the door of our ICU we are trying to save your life obviously but there are occasions when there are very severe accidents or bad hemorrhages or so on where we can’t save your life and on those occasions we will, if it’s appropriate, offer your family the opportunity to donate organs.

“This week is important for that reason because for families of people who die in ICU it’s a terrible tragedy and this is one small thing that we can do for them in the middle of what is often a very sudden and tragic event and it can truly give them hope.”

She said that the donation of organs from the deceased family member often makes the family feel “proud” and helps them both at the time of their loved one’s passing and subsequently. 

“From my point of view when I’m dealing with a donor and a donor family, I am thinking of the donor who is the person who has died and the family because we live through this illness with them in the ICU. It is often very emotional, very difficult, they are often young and it’s often very sudden that you can’t possibly predict it.

“This week highlights the need for people to talk about organ donation, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in-depth but if you let your family know that when I come and ask them it makes it easier for them to answer that question.”

She said that becoming an organ donor can have a “transformational change” on the lives of the recipients also, many of whom may be on dialysis or may need a heart, liver or lung transplant.

“We have always got more need than we have organs. Because we’ve got better at medicine we can now perform transplants on people who are older and we can offer so many different options to patients.

“There are over 600 people on the waiting list nearly at all times now and you’re far more likely to need an organ than to be a donor,” she said.

She reminded people that they can have code 115 put on their driving licence, specifying the licence holder’s intention to donate their organs in the event of their death. People can also download the app from the Irish Kidney Association or order a physical card to carry with them.

She said that having that conversation with family is also “very important” as it is then something that “your family will know that you want to do”.

“Of course, living donations is also a big thing for kidney donors and at the moment you can donate kidneys to your relatives in Ireland and that’s also important to remember but that’s generally a conversation you have with a patient who is alive and well.

“But, when dealing with a deceased person we rely on their families and knowing what they wanted and frequently it is just a brief conversation that they had. And it gives them a sense of purpose at the time and afterward,” she said.

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