Public attitude toward xenotransplantation: opinion survey

A R Rios, C C Conesa, P Ramírez, M M Rodríguez, P Parrilla
Transplantation Proceedings 2004, 36 (10): 2901-5

BACKGROUND: Although xenotransplantation is still in an experimental phase, it is presented herein as a possible solution to the organ shortage. However, there are few data concerning how the general public would accept treatment with animal organs, especially after recent incidents of infections of animal origin, such as "avian influenza" or "SARS disease." The aim of this study was to determine the attitude of the general public toward xenotransplantation of organs.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Using an opinion survey, a study was performed on a random sample of 250 subjects in an urban setting. The questionnaire was administered by personnel from the regional transplant coordination center. Completion of the form was self-directed and anonymous for each respondent. The attitude toward donation of human and animal organs was evaluated by analyzing different psychosocial variables that may influence this attitude. A descriptive statistical study was performed using Student's t test and the chi-square test.

RESULTS: Ninety-eight percent of respondents completed the survey (n=245). As for human donation, 60% are in favor of cadaveric donation with 21% are in favor of living donation, a rate that increases to 74% if it is for a living partner. As for animal donation, if the results were similar to those obtained with human organs, 74% (n=181) would accept an animal organ if they needed it, as opposed to 18% (n=45) who were undecided and 8% (n=19) against (P <.005). Analysis of variables that influence attitudes toward xenotransplantation showed that this attitude was more positive among those having had a previous experience with transplantation (P=.028) and those having a positive attitude toward cadaveric donation (P=.007). Factors traditionally related to cadaveric donation, such as manipulation of the body or pro-social activities, showed no influence.

CONCLUSIONS: In the population studied, a positive attitude toward xenotransplantation was greater than toward cadaveric donation, assuming the results of these two types of transplants were comparable. Such an attitude is related to human donation, although it is not influenced by many traditional factors.

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