[Knowledge, attitude and reservations of medical students about organ transplantation: results of a survey during the first year of study]

K Laederach-Hofmann, B I Gerster
Schweizerische Medizinische Wochenschrift 1998 November 21, 128 (47): 1840-9

AIM: Establish a list of first year medical students' attitudes, doubts, and knowledge in the fields of organ transplantation and donation.

METHOD: Anonymized questionnaire handed out to students during class lectures.

RESULTS: 183 questionnaires were distributed and 117 returned (participation: 64%). The average age of the students was 21.6 +/- 2.7 years (range 18 to 38 years); the sample included 71 women (60.7%) and 48 men (39.3%). Only 2 students (2%) were not interested in the subject of organ donation. The students knew very little of the legal aspects of organ donation and 1/4 of them thought there was even a Federal law regarding organ transplantation. When asked if they knew whether a law existed in the Canton of Berne, 44% replied yes, but only 24 (20%) knew that this is contradictory. There was no gender difference in the answers to these question. From 57 students (48%) 246 individual comments on doubts and concerns were analyzed. In this respect, the students mainly questioned whether the donor was truly dead when donation took place (n = 48), if illegal transplantation could be eliminated (n = 44) and if transplantation was truly necessary (n = 43). Some also mentioned religious/ethical doubts (n = 42). In regard to organ donation by a living individual, 27 students were concerned about the health of this donor. 20 students had doubts regarding the pressure possibly applied by family members and friends and as many voiced doubts in regard to premature diagnosis of brain death of potential donors. Only 2 students were concerned about the post-mortem presentation. 45 students (48%) indicated discomfort with the donation of certain organs. They ranked the kidney as the first organ to donate, followed by the pancreas, heart, cornea, intestine, lung and liver.

CONCLUSION: The interest in organ donation and transplantation is already strong in fist year medical students in the pre-clinical stage. However, differences from lay public are not readably detectable at this stage of medical training. Adequate information could influence future physicians in their mediatory role.

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