[Knowledge, trust, and the decision to donate organs : A comparison of medical students and students of other disciplines in Germany]

T Terbonssen, U Settmacher, O Dirsch, U Dahmen
Der Chirurg; Zeitschrift Für Alle Gebiete der Operativen Medizen 2018, 89 (2): 131-137

BACKGROUND: Following the organ transplant scandal in Germany in 2011, the willingness to donate organs postmortem decreased dramatically. This was explained by a loss of confidence in the German organ donation system.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between knowledge, trust, and fear in respect to organ donation and the explicit willingness to potentially act as an organ donor by comparing medical students to students of other disciplines.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: We conducted a Facebook-based online survey (June-July 2013). The participating students were divided into two groups according to their discipline: medical students and other students. Based on questions covering different aspects of organ donation, a knowledge, trust, and fear score was established and calculated. The answers were related to an explicitly expressed decision to donate organs as expressed in a signed organ donor card.

RESULTS: In total, 2484 participants took part in our survey. Of these, 1637 were students, 83.7% (N = 1370) of which were medical students and 16.3% (N = 267) other students. As expected, medical students reached a higher knowledge score regarding organ donation compared with other students (knowledge score 4.13 vs. 3.38; p < 0.001). They also demonstrated more confidence in organ donation, resulting in a higher confidence score (3.94 vs. 3.33; p < 0.001) and expressed less fear towards organ donation as indicated by the lower fear score (1.76 vs. 2.04; p < 0.01). Medical students declared their written willingness to donate organs more often than did other students (78.2% vs. 55.2%; p < 0.001). Entries on organ donation cards did not differ significantly between medical students and other students. Medical students possessing an organ donor card showed a higher knowledge and a higher trust score than did medical students without an organ donor card. In contrast, other students possessing an organ donor card showed a higher trust score but did not show a higher knowledge score.

CONCLUSIONS: The higher level of knowledge and trust demonstrated by the medical students was associated with a higher rate of written decisions to donate organs. In contrast, the lower level of knowledge and trust observed in the non-medical students was associated with a lower rate of organ donor cards. Interestingly, in the group of non-medical students, the decision regarding organ donation was associated with a higher level of trust, but not with a higher level of knowledge. It would appear that knowledge, trust, and the decision to donate organs are closely related. In cases of a low level of knowledge, confidence is even more important. Therefore, organ donation campaigns should focus on increasing knowledge and fostering trust.

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