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Med J Aust. 1996 Jan 1;164(1):28-31.

Donation of heart valve tissue: seeking consent and meeting the needs of donor families.

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  • 1Social Work Department, Prince Charles Hospital, Chermside, QLD.



To report on the experiences of senior social workers in seeking consent for donation of heart valve tissue at coronial autopsies.


Retrospective review of the records of an allograft heart valve program at a tertiary referral hospital in Brisbane between 11 October 1990 and 11 October 1995.


Of the 305 families who could be contacted after the sudden death of a family member, 247 consented to donation (81%) and 58 did not (19%). In the context of coronial enquiries, a sensitive assessment of the counselling needs of potential donor families is necessary. Difficulties in seeking consent include: the sudden nature of the death and lack of information about the prospective donor and his/her family; and the limited time available for tissue retrieval as well as the necessity, in most cases, to obtain consent for donation by telephone. The needs of these families included information on autopsy, transplantation and recipient outcome; grief counselling; emotional and practical support; and recognition of their contribution.


In this successful tissue donation program, senior social workers have maximised the availability of heart valve tissue for donation, while respecting the needs and wishes of potential donor families and helping them with their loss through counselling and assistance. The program has been extended to the retrieval of eye and bone tissue at coronial autopsies in Queensland.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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