U.S. surgeon and medical student attitudes toward organ donation

Mark J Hobeika, Ronald Simon, Rajesh Malik, H Leon Pachter, Spiros Frangos, Omar Bholat, Sheldon Teperman, Lewis Teperman
Journal of Trauma 2009, 67 (2): 372-5

BACKGROUND: Nearly 100,000 people await an organ transplant in the U.S. Improved utilization of potential organ donors may reduce the organ shortage. Physician attitudes toward organ donation may influence donation rates; however, the attitudes of U.S. physicians have not been formally evaluated.

METHODS: Anonymous questionnaires were distributed to surgical attendings, surgical residents, and medical students at two academic medical centers. Willingness to donate one's own organs and family member's organs was examined, as well as experience with transplant procedures and religious views regarding organ donation.

RESULTS: A total of 106 surveys were returned. Sixty-four percent of responders were willing to donate their own organs, and 49% had signed an organ donor card. Willingness to donate inversely correlated with professional experience. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed would agree to donate the organs of a family member, including 55% of those who refused to donate their own organs. Experience on the transplant service influenced 16% of those refusing donation, with the procurement procedure cited by 83% of this group. Sixteen percent refused organ donation on the basis of religious beliefs.

CONCLUSIONS: The surveyed U.S. physicians are less willing to donate their organs compared with the general public. Despite understanding the critical need for organs, less than half of physicians surveyed had signed organ donor cards. Previous experiences with the procurement procedure influenced several responders to refuse organ donation. As the lay public traditionally looks to physicians for guidance, efforts must be made to improve physician attitudes toward organ donation with the hope of increasing donation rates.

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