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UHMBT Ethical Decision Making in Organ Donation

Project: Research


In recent years, there has been much ethical and clinical interest in organ donation. Whilst there has been much debate over how to encourage donation, there is less discussion into the ethical decision-making by healthcare professionals that emerges once a patient is accepted as being a potential organ donor. In particular, what ethical and clinical issues consultants and nurses face when dealing with very sick patients who may proceed to being organ donors, following agreement by the medical team that treatment will be withdrawn, leading to cardiac death.

Whilst cardiac death donation was accepted until the 1960s, it has only recently been considered again as an alternative route to gaining organs in order to meet the demand that is currently not being supplied from donors who are declared brain dead. The amount of cardiac dead organ donations per year has increased, with implications for limited hospital resources, such as staff, beds and wards. The practical need to prolong treatment so as to allow the organ retrieval to take place is ethically problematic, and how healthcare professionals resolve this dilemma is of particular interest in this research.

The aims of this research are to:
- Identify and apply various ethical tools, such as the Four Principles and SeedHouse’s Ethical Grids, when making decisions around withdrawing treatment and organ donation
- Explore healthcare professionals’ ethical decision making relating to withdrawing treatment and organ donation
- Examine the legal implications surrounding withdrawing treatment and organ donation
- Gain insight into qualitative methodology and analysis, and the research process

The student will conduct a literature review on withdrawing treatment in the context of organ donation, and identify appropriate ethical tools to be used in decision-making. Recruitment material will be developed and sent whilst the literature review is taking place.

Qualitative interviews with healthcare professionals across three departments (A&E, ITU, Theatres) will be conducted. As a result, the student will also need to read about qualitative interviewing and analysing qualitative data. The interviews will be in-depth, semi-structured, and conducted face-to-face. An interview guide will be prepared before conducting the interviews.
AcronymUHMBT Ethical Decision Making in Organ Donation
Effective start/end date1/09/1231/08/13


  • University Hospitals Morecambe Bay Trust: £6,863.00


Research outputs