Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Cadaver nephrectomy: an operation on the donor's family.

Br Med J 1979; 1 doi: (Published 27 January 1979) Cite this as: Br Med J 1979;1:239
  1. J B Morton,
  2. D R Leonard


    Thirty-two relatives of cadaver kidney donors were interviewed six months or longer after the donor's death. Most had positive attitudes to kidney transplantation that had been strengthened by experience, especially when they knew that they were fulfilling the donor's wishes. Twenty-three of the relatives had gained some solace from knowing that others might benefit from their misfortune, but three claimed adverse effects. In identifying the factors that influenced them to grant permission or hesitate, relatives revealed defects in the way their permission had been sought. Twelve did not clearly understand the donor's hopeless prognosis until then, and seven reacted adversely to the interviewers, finding them blunt and callous. Nevertheless, most were pleased that they had been asked. Doctors who care for unconscious, dying patients should try to give relatives explicit information on the patient's condition, whether or not the patient is a potential kidney donor, and permission for organ recovery should not be sought until they understand that death is inevitable.