Obstacles to organ donation

Br J Surg. 1989 May;76(5):435-9. doi: 10.1002/bjs.1800760506.


Attitudes towards transplantation were investigated in national surveys of the general public (n = 1471), the medical profession (n = 590) and key clinical staff in units referring potential organ donors (n = 380). A clear majority of doctors would like to see more transplants. Only 16 per cent of doctors opposed them on cost grounds, and a 50 per cent 5-year survival rate is seen as more than adequate clinical justification. However, doctors are less supportive of liver and heart grafts than of kidney and cornea grafts. Few lay people would refuse donation of specific organs, but 30 per cent worry that doctors might be pressured into removal of organs when they are not sure the patient is dead. Religious or moral objection is rare. Intensive care unit staff felt the most important factor restricting organ harvest in their own units was dislike of adding to relatives' distress, followed by lack of training in approaching relatives and adverse media publicity. Only 11 per cent thought reservations on brain stem death a likely or possible influence. Enhanced public awareness of the need for transplants was seen as the most important means of increasing organ harvest. Required request would be controversial and perhaps impossible to implement. We conclude that the time, effort and expense involved in potential organ donation do not play a substantial part in limiting referral. Neither do reservations about brain stem death. Increased training of staff (both in communication skills and in the professional responsibility to encourage donation) and greater public awareness are seen as the twin foundations of a realistic approach to enhancing referral.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Attitude*
  • Brain Death
  • Communication
  • Cornea
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Data Collection
  • Death
  • Education
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Family
  • Heart
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Middle Aged
  • Morals
  • Nurses*
  • Organ Transplantation*
  • Physicians* / psychology
  • Presumed Consent
  • Public Opinion*
  • Religion
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Third-Party Consent
  • Tissue Donors*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*
  • Transplantation / psychology*
  • United Kingdom
  • Workforce