Interview with Professor Bernard Charpentier, Head of the Department of Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplants at CHU Bicetre (Kremlin-Bicêtre). It brings useful and practical advice and information ...
How to explain that the French are still so reluctant to donate their organs?
There are many reasons for this. First, the first reason is the refusal of the family. Parents and relatives have just learned of the sudden death of their son or daughter. Hardly time to understand the tragedy that has just occurred, barely enough time to understand the brain-dead state in which their loved one finds himself, to be informed about the question of organ donation. If they are people who have never dared to approach the issue with the family, they find themselves destitute, shocked, with the impression that we want to steal their loved one, and they say "no".
If, on the contrary, these people have already approached the question with the family, that they know the position of their deceased, the answer "yes" is imperative. They know that the death of their parent will save five or six lives.
But, it's not just the family's refusal, which is a problem. There is also the census of brain deaths in hospitals. Medical coordination is still difficult throughout France.
What to do then so that the French are more numerous to want to give their organs?
Talk about ! For years, the subject remained completely taboo. We dared not approach the question. And then, there were many information campaigns. Today, people know what it is. But the question is still difficult to address as a family. It's so scary. This touches on the unthinkable. Suddenly, consider that the people we love the most in the world, will be able to disappear ... it is so painful. However, we must address the issue, if only once. Tell your loved ones, if that happens to me, that's what I want. I want, by my death, to be able to save other lives. Or I do not want to. Everyone is free. So that when that happens, the family is not deprived. You must not be in the guilt or the horror of a choice like this.
On what occasion to speak about this subject?
Sometimes a simple TV or radio show, or a reading on the internet can bring the subject. But really, in my opinion, what is needed is to talk about it at school. This is where civic consciousness is formed. Organ donation must be included in civic education programs. You know, kids are very generous, of course. They all agree on organ donation.
And then, there is always the possibility of taking his organ donor card. It's also a good way to unburden the family of a difficult decision.
Can everyone be an organ donor?
Yes. In certain medical conditions, obviously. But everyone can be a donor. Even sick, even old: it is the quality of the organ that counts.
First, you can give while alive. You can donate your blood, you can give your platelets, you can give your bone marrow as well, to save people with leukemia, for example.
And then, after death, when it comes to a brain death, you can give your heart, your lungs, your kidneys, your liver or your cornea. A brain dead person can save five or six lives and restore sight to many people. But, organ harvesting is only possible under certain conditions. The potential donor must be brain dead, for example, after a head injury, or after certain cardiovascular events. These brain deaths (the heart continues to beat note ) account for only 1% of deaths in hospital. These conditions are rare and therefore precious.
Donate from a living donor
Interview with Professor Bernard Charpentier, Head of the Department of Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplants at CHU Bicetre (Kremlin-Bicêtre).
And what about organ donation with a living donor?
We can indeed give a kidney. We live very well with one kidney. This type of organ donation is often done in the context of the family. In the United States, there is 50% of transplants with a living donor. In France, there are only 8%. I do not think Americans are more generous than the French. It really is that there is a real problem of communication on the subject with us.
One of the great reluctance of donor families is the mutilation of their loved one's body. What can you tell them?
There was sometimes a time when the body of the deceased was not always respected as it should have been. But things have changed. Today the donor is taken under the same conditions as during a surgical procedure. With the same respect and the same repairs as on a living. The surgical teams are trained for this, now. In concrete terms, this means that the incisions are closed and covered with a bandage. If the corneas are removed, they are replaced by prostheses. After the operation, the deceased is dressed and returned to his family. No scar is apparent. And then, what I can tell families is that the tragic death of their loved one can save lives and there is no point in having their organs in place to go to Heaven. Thanks to their decision, we can reverse things and go from death to life.
Are religious arguments an obstacle?
Sometimes, but not very often. Most religions defend life.
For Catholics or Jews, no problem. Except in some people whose religious determinism makes them think of life and death as divine choices on which it is not good to influence. But it is rare. Among the Jews, saving a life is saving the universe. Among Muslims, Dalil Boubakeur and many MusuImams spoke in favor of organ donation.
For the Protestants, the dead body is not sacred.
However, the question has been raised in all religious currents to define or redefine death. Since someone in a brain-dead state is someone whose heart has not stopped beating yet. For religions where the heart is at the center of life, this can be problematic.
For the Shinto religion, organ harvesting is impossible, the soul floating around the body, this is what happens in a country as developed as Japan obliging to resort systematically to living donors and surgical technical prowess with significant risks to donors, while it would be so simple to use the dead.
Read also :
> How is organ donation going?
> Video on transplant rejection
> Share your experiences, fears, questions ... in our FORUM Registry - Organ donation!