Hospital-based organ donation memorial ceremony: a grounded theory pilot study

Charles Calhoun Reed, Elma I Fonseca, Regina I Reed, Stacy Foremski, Sara L Gill


Objective: Various types of organ donation memorials, to include tree planting, rose garden memorials, candle lighting, donor memorial wall events are conducted throughout the year primarily by organ procurement organizations (OPOs). Although the benefits of such events have not been explored there has been continued interest by hospital staff and administrators to host such events. The purpose of this grounded theory pilot study was to describe the process of healing that a hospital-based organ donation memorial ceremony creates at the individual level and organ donation awareness and advocacy at the community level.
Methods: The researchers interviewed nine organ donor family members who were invited to attend a hospital-based organ donation memorial ceremony at one Level I Trauma Center located in South Texas.
Results: A 4-stage social process, “makes the hole in the heart smaller”, was identified from the qualitative interview data. Participants journeyed through a four stage process to make the hole in their hearts smaller. The four stages are: choosing to attend, being able to connect, keeping the memory alive and knowing something good came from it. As participants moved between stages their meaning for attendance changed. Families shifted from personal grieving and needing support to supporting other donor families and in the process became advocates for organ donation.
Conclusions: The findings from this study validate the benefits of hospital-based organ donation memorial ceremonies. Families reported these ceremonies support their decision to donate, while also providing a means of continued emotional support throughout their grief process. The memorial event provides a safe venue for organ donor families to connect and share with others who have had a similar experience, while acknowledging their loved ones gift of life. Hospital-based organ donation memorial ceremonies and the permanent memorial structure increase awareness of organ donation for the community of donor families, hospital visitors and hospital staff.

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Journal of Hospital Administration

ISSN 1927-6990(Print)   ISSN 1927-7008(Online)

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