Traumatic memories of relatives regarding brain death, request for organ donation and interactions with professionals in the ICU

Am J Transplant. 2007 Jan;7(1):211-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-6143.2006.01594.x.


Little is known about the memories of relatives after they have been confronted with the brain death of a loved one and the request for organ donation. We conducted this study, guided by Grounded Theory, to explore relatives' experiences, their interactions with health care providers and what influenced their memories. We interviewed 40 relatives (31 consenting to and 9 refusing organ donation) of 33 brain-dead individuals. Relatives described their experiences as a difficult process composed of several stages spanning from the initial encounter to the final decision about donation. Long-term memories of bereaved relatives were influenced by the characteristics of their decision-making style (clear vs. ambivalent) and the perceived quality of the interaction with professionals on the intensive care unit. Organ-focused behavior of professionals and an ambivalent decision-making style of relatives appear to be risk factors for traumatic memories.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Bereavement
  • Brain Death*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Decision Making
  • Family
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*