Studies on living donors from the donors’ perspective show that the donation process involves both positive and negative feelings involving vulnerability. Qualitative studies of living kidney, liver, and allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell donors have not previously been merged in the same analysis. Therefore, our aim was to synthesize current knowledge of these donors’ experiences to deepen understanding of the meaning of being a living donor for the purpose of saving or extending someone's life.Methods
The meta-ethnography steps presented by Noblit and Hare in 1988 were used.Results
Forty-one qualitative studies from 1968 to 2016 that fulfilled the inclusion criteria were analyzed. The studies comprised experiences of over 670 donors. The time since donation varied from 2 days to 29 years. A majority of the studies, 25 of 41, were on living kidney donors. The synthesis revealed that the essential meaning of being a donor is doing what one feels one has to do, involving 6 themes; A sense of responsibility, loneliness and abandonment, suffering, pride and gratitude, a sense of togetherness, and a life changing event.Conclusions
The main issue is that one donates irrespective of what one donates. The relationship to the recipient determines the motives for donation. The deeper insight into the donors’ experiences provides implications for their psychological care.