Public education and organ donation: untested assumptions and unexpected consequences

J Law Med. 2007 Feb;14(3):360-6.


While the number of individuals able to benefit from transplantation increases with technological developments, donation rates remain insufficient to cater for demand. A universal response to the insufficient number of donor organs has been public education to increase knowledge about donation and transplantation, and to encourage individuals to register their wishes about donation. Although education appears to have increased knowledge and encouraged individuals to register their wishes, it has not increased the number of organs available for transplantation. In fact, there is some evidence that encouraging people to register their wishes may be detrimental to increasing net donation rates. The failure of education programs to increase organ donation rates may be due in part to a failure to recognise that attitudes to donation are influenced by complex socio-cultural and personal beliefs, and not simply by knowledge. Research aiming to increase the rate at which organs are procured for donation must recognise that some individuals do not support transplantation and have their own personal reasons for maintaining this position. Educational interventions should not assume that increasing knowledge or simply encouraging individuals to declare a decision about donation will increase consent to donation.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Decision Making*
  • Health Education*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Public Policy*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / legislation & jurisprudence*