(HealthDay News) — Perceptions of the organ donation experience vary between relatives who decide to donate their relative’s organs and those who do not, but the decision does not appear to be associated with subsequent grief symptoms, according to a study published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Nancy Kentish-Barnes, PhD, from the Saint-Louis University Hospital in Paris, and colleagues assessed the organ donation process and grief symptoms in relatives of 202 brain dead patients who discussed organ donation in 28 French intensive care units. Relatives were surveyed at 1, 3, and 9 months.

The researchers found that 44 of the relatives refused organ donation. Participation in follow-up interviews were 78% at 1 month, 68% at 3 months, and 58% at 9 months. While relatives of non-donors were more dissatisfied with communication (P=0.021), more often shocked by the request (P<0.0001), and more often found the decision difficult (P=0.017), there were no significant differences in grief symptoms between the two groups at 3- and 9-month follow-up. For relatives who did not understand the brain death process, the prevalence of complicated grief symptoms was higher, compared to those who did understand (P=0.026).

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“We show that experience of organ donation processes varies between relatives of donor versus non-donor patients, the latter experiencing more difficulty and burden,” the authors write. “However, the decision to donate (consent/refusal) is not associated with grief symptoms.”

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Kentish-Barnes N, Chevret S, Cheisson G, et al. Grief Symptoms in Relatives who Experienced Organ Donation Request in the ICU. Am J Resp Crit Care Med. DOI:10.1164/rccm.201709-1899OC