Ethical reflection support for potential organ donors' relatives: A narrative review

Nursing Ethics 29 (3):660-674 (2022)
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Abstract

Background: Even in countries with an opt-out or presumed consent system, relatives have a considerable influence on the post-mortem organ harvesting decision. However, their reflection capacity may be compromised by grief, and they are, therefore, often prone to choose refusal as default option. Quite often, it results in late remorse and dissatisfaction. So, a high-quality reflection support seems critical to enable them to gain a stable position and a long-term peace of mind, and also avoid undue loss of potential grafts. In practice, recent studies have shown that the ethical aspects of reflection are rarely and often poorly discussed with relatives and that no or incomplete guidance is offered. No review of the literature is available to date, although it could be of value to improve the quality of the daily practice. Objectives: The objective was to review and synthesize the main concepts and approaches, theories and practices of ethical reflection support of the relatives or surrogates of potential post-mortem organ donors. Research design: A narrative review was performed in the medical, psychological and ethical fields using PubMed, PsycArticles and Web of Science databases. Results: Out of 150 papers, 25 were finally retained. Four themes were drawn: the moral status of the potential post-mortem organ donor, the principlistic approach with its limits and critics, the narrative approach and the transcendental approach. Discussion: This review suggests an extension of psychological support towards ethical reflection support. The process of helping relatives in their ethical exploration of post-mortem organ donation is psychologically and morally characterized. The need for specialized professionals educated and experienced both in clinical psychology and in health ethics to carry out this task is discussed. Practical impact: This review could contribute to optimize the quality of the ethical reflection support by initiating an evolution from an empirical, partial and individual-dependent support to a more systematized, professionalized and exhaustive support.

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