Caring for organ donors: The intensive care unit physicians' view

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Abstract

This study examined the meanings that the intensive care unit (ICU) physicians attribute to their practice when caring for brain-dead organ donors. It is a phenomenological study, a qualitative method that searches for describing and understanding the experiences lived. Data were collected through recorded individual interviews made with 10 ICU physicians who work in a university hospital in the interior of São Paulo, Brazil. Three categories emerged from data: (1) providing care for brain-dead organ donors; (2) relating to donors and their families; and (3) the ethical concerns and self-awareness of the physicians. There is consensus as to many aspects: demand of technical qualification and excellence in practice; need of investing in technology of organ transplant; and donors seen as human beings and holders of human rights. Participants understand that family participation is decisive in the donation process, although interactions between the family members and the physicians are difficult because of the sensitive nature of the situation. The physicians often felt ill-prepared to openly discuss the topic of brain death and organ donation. Educational programs for physicians and family members may assist with this difficult process.

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