Objective: To study attitudes, knowledge, and actions of local medical students with regard to organ donation and self-perceived confidence and competence in approaching potential organ donors.
Design: Cross-sectional questionnaire survey.
Setting: Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Participants: Medical students, years 1-5.
Main outcome measures: Knowledge on various aspects of organ donation was assessed, and students' self-evaluated competence and confidence about counselling for organ donation was evaluated. Factors influencing attitudes and actions were determined.
Results: The response rate was 94% (655/694). A majority (85%) had a 'positive' attitude, but only a small proportion (23%) had signed the organ donation card. Inconvenience and lack of knowledge about organ donor registration, and concerns about premature termination of medical treatment accounted for such discrepancies. Socio-cultural factors such as the traditional Chinese belief in preservation of an intact body after death, unease discussing death-related issues, and family objections to organ donation were significantly associated with a 'negative' attitude. Knowledge and action increased with medical education yet only a small proportion of medical students felt competent and confident in counselling patients on organ donation.
Conclusions: The medical curriculum should increase medical students' awareness of the organ shortage problem. The donor registration system should be made more convenient and public education is recommended to correct misconceptions.