Newsbrief in translation: Dutch deceased donor dearth

Last Thursday a study was released in the Netherlands on the decision making process for surviving relatives  in granting consent for deceased organ donation. There is a small story on it in English.

University Medical Center Utrecht Source: Wikimedia Commons

For more, here is my translation/adaptation from the original Dutch press release from Utrecht University:

Research on the organ donation decision making process of surviving relatives

Wishes of the deceased are crucial to organ donation

If relatives make the decision whether or not to proceed with donation, above all, they took into account the presumed will of the deceased. That was the conclusion of Utrecht University psychologists Loes Smeijers and Jan van den Bout . Their research on the decision making process of surviving relatives is commissioned by the Dutch Transplant Foundation.

A large portion of the Dutch population is not registered on the donor registry. In such cases, surviving relatives must decide if they will consent to donation. At least 68% of the relatives refused donation. Psychologists Smeijers and Van den Bout researched the motivations of relatives. 27 hospitals participated, including most academic hospitals[6 of the 8 academic hospitals in the Netherlands]. Relatives were interviewed and around 100 surviving relatives completed questionnaires.


The wishes of the deceased played the biggest role in the decision making of surviving relatives that refused organ donation. Not knowing what the deceased wanted is an important reason to refuse. Additionally surviving relatives’  own convictions against organ donation influence their decision, as do their wishes to keep the body intact.


The surviving relatives that granted consent for organ donation found that the presumed will of the deceased was also important. Other “consenters’ ” motives  were to help other people and their wish to make death meaningful. Additionally research showed that the surviving relatives that had been well informed by the treating physician, understood the health status of their loved one [e.g.knew all treatment options have been exhausted] and received an explanation about and understood “brain death” as the valid bright line for donation more often gave their consent.

Feedback after organ donation

The researchers recorded the experiences of the consenting relatives. These relatives indicate, for example, that the donation procedure sometimes took a long time, however they were not prepared for this. They also reported that would have liked feedback about the organ recipients. The third caveat was that they were not always informed about the possibility that the organs were unsuitable. Proper guidance from the hospital was very appreciated.  Here, surviving relatives have a lot of support in the early phase of the grieving process.

Make it known

In their report, Smeijers and Van den Bout implore people to make a well thought out choice. “And to register, or at least make it known to loved ones ” said Smeijers. “When surviving relatives are informed about the wishes of their loved ones, then this saves a lot of suffering: surviving relatives will therefore find the donation question a less difficult experience.”

More information

Press contact, Utrecht University, Wietske de Lange, +31 30 253 4073,

Many thanks to Loes Smeijers for her feedback on the translation.

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    1. […] at TransplantInformers, we recently provided a translation of the Dutch press release on research which surveyed surviving family members of potential deceased donors and motivations […]

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