*"4 Systems To Support Organ Donation." Institute of Medicine. 2006. Organ Donation: Opportunities for Action. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11643.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Honoring Patient Choice and Organ Donation
By Natalie McNeal, Wellstar Community Hospice, and
Kim Kottemann, LifeLink Foundation
Honoring patient choices means that we must offer options to our patients and look beyond our current service offerings while operating within legal, compliance, and regulatory boundaries. More than ever, medical providers are focusing on patient preferences and needs, and hospice can be a solution. Goals of care do not have to be mutually exclusive because they have not been paired with hospice services in the past. Instead, we must consider how hospice can complement the continuum of care.
In 2016, our team was asked a simple question, “Why can’t we use hospice with patients who want to donate vital organs?” This led our team on a patient experience journey and an otherwise unlikely partnership with our state’s organ procurement organization. Until hospice providers begin to seek understanding of service lines we thought were mutually exclusive to hospice, we will not be able to provide an exhaustive array of options for those who can truly benefit from hospice services. Good goals of care should include all end-of-life options for patients and families.
In a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, researchers write, "In recent years, many initiatives to increase the rates of organ donation have been undertaken. Several of these efforts are early in their implementation phases and have not yet been fully evaluated. Although organ donation rates have risen in the past 5 years, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine exactly how much each initiative or regulatory change has contributed to that rise. Taken together, the data suggest that a multipronged approach is necessary to realize the potential of organ donation in the United States."*
For those who are participating in NHPCO's 2021 Leadership and Advocacy Conference, we invite you to join us for our presentation on Concurrent Use of Hospice and Organ Donation in Acute Care to learn how we vetted this expansion of our service and applied an ethical framework to guide our decision to include organ procurement as a choice for a subset of our patients. Honoring a patient’s wish to pursue the gift of life after their death has inspired our team to effectively utilize our expertise for a population we did not previously serve.