Understanding family involvement in body donation in Hong Kong: A qualitative study of registered donors and bereaved family members

Wallace Chi Ho Chan*, Sun On Chan, Adrienne Lei Yung Wong, Pasu Kwai Lun Ng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Encouraging the public to donate their bodies after death is crucial for anatomy teaching in medical education. In Hong Kong, success may be affected if family members override the registered donors' wish after death, and thus the role of family in body donation is worth more attention. This study aims to examine how family is involved in the process of body donation. A qualitative study was conducted in Hong Kong. Registered donors and bereaved family members were recruited from a body donation scheme organised by a medical school. In-depth interviews were done and thematic analysis was conducted. Five themes were found: (a) decision-making: individual versus family; (b) family conflicts: avoidance versus confrontation; (c) trust in family members: discuss versus do not discuss; (d) family members' struggles in implementation; (e) informed end-of-life planning. Findings revealed that donors may not necessarily discuss their decisions about body donation with family members directly. Instead, it was found that family was involved in the body donation process in different ways and to different extents. For example, donors considered family members' views about body donation, but they chose not to involve them in the discussions if they expected objections, in order to avoid conflicts. Bereaved family members considered understanding family members' body donation decisions prior to death important, and they shared the implications of body donation for funeral arrangements and the grieving process. Findings help to understand the role of the family in body donation, especially in the Hong Kong Chinese context, and may give insights into how the body donation scheme could be enhanced to facilitate better communication between registered donors and family members as well as to support bereaved family members in implementing the decision to donate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-278
Number of pages9
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number1
Early online date30 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

Cite this