Knowledge and attitude regarding organ donation among medical students and physicians

Elke S Schaeffner, Wolfram Windisch, Klaus Freidel, Kristin Breitenfeldt, Wolfgang C Winkelmayer
Transplantation 2004 June 15, 77 (11): 1714-8

BACKGROUND: There is a discrepancy between demand and supply of donor organs for kidney transplantation. Health care providers can influence the willingness to donate or hold an organ donor card. It is unclear how educated current and future health care professionals are about organ donation and what constitutes their attitude toward this topic.

METHODS: The authors conducted a cross-sectional survey among 1136 medical students and physicians to evaluate the knowledge about and attitude toward organ donation and transplantation at a large academic medical center in Germany. The authors used a 28-item questionnaire that included items on knowledge, attitude, and demographics.

RESULTS: Only 8% of the respondents felt sufficiently prepared for approaching relatives of potential organ donors. Knowledge about and attitude toward organ donation were highly associated with increasing level of medical education. In multivariate analyses, knowledge (odds ratio [OR], 1.17; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08-1.25), attitude (OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 1.02-1.04), and level of education (OR for preclinical students, 0.39; 95% CI, 0.20-0.76 compared with physicians) were significantly associated with the likelihood of holding an organ donor card, whereas age, gender, and personal experience with renal replacement therapy were not.

CONCLUSIONS: Higher medical education is associated with greater knowledge about and a more positive attitude toward organ donation. Health care professionals with a higher education level are more likely to hold an organ donor card and also feel more comfortable in approaching relatives of potential organ donors. Educating health care professionals about the organ donation process appears to be an important factor in maximizing the benefits from the limited organ donor pool.

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