Discussing Donation

Organ and tissue donation is a positive subject, the subject of life and love. This guide is designed to help you encourage and lead a donation discussion with your family. Although some members of your family may be afraid to talk about donation, you may be able to help them overcome their fear and discuss the topic openly.

Some suggestions of how to introduce the subject to your family include:

  • Bring up the subject one evening to test your family's reaction. If they seem interested, go on as long as the discussion continues. You may have to mention the subject a time or two before your family becomes used to the idea.
  • Set a time for the discussion and ask each family member to think about his feelings and questions beforehand. These comments and questions can be used to break the ice and begin discussion.
  • Bring up the topic in relation to current events, like a news story, the death of a celebrity, or someone the family knew. It may be less difficult for members of your family to discuss donation in relation to an event or a story. You may also want to use one of our donation stories as an example to illustrate the human perspective of organ donation.
What to Expect

During the discussion, you should be prepared for a variety of reactions. It is quite possible that someone will become upset or anxious during the discussion.

If someone becomes upset, remain calm and find out gently why the person is distressed. Remember the "positive approach" and try to point out that the conversation is really about giving life to other human beings. If this positive approach does not work, respect the person's wishes to leave the room or to end the conversation. Perhaps he or she will be able to discuss the subject at another time, or in a one-on-one, rather than in a family setting.

Another possible reaction to the subject is humor. You may find that someone in the family will begin to make jokes in order to deal with his or her own anxiety about the issue. Attempting to lighten the mood with humor is  a normal reaction. Do not overreact to the jokes by making the person feel uncomfortable. If you continue on a serious note, the rest of the family will follow your lead.

How to Listen and Respond

Try to keep the conversation calm and focused throughout the discussion. The best way to do this is to listen carefully to each person and to respond without judging. The important thing is to discuss the issue openly and to learn how each family member feels about donation. If someone expresses an opinion with which you disagree, it is important for you to recognize each person's right to his or her individual point of view.