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June 7, 1985

Public Attitudes and Behavior Regarding Organ Donation

Author Affiliations

From the Health and Population Study Center, Battelle Human Affairs Research Centers, Seattle.

JAMA. 1985;253(21):3111-3115. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03350450083026

Organ transplantation has been the subject of much attention; unfortunately, relatively little has been published about public attitudes toward organ donation. To better document public perceptions on organ donation, a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,056 respondents was conducted. We found that nearly 94% of the population had heard about organ transplantation, but only 19% of these people carried donor cards. The results indicated that people are somewhat more likely to donate the organs of a relative who had just died (53%) than they are to donate their own organs (50%). People were most likely to donate kidneys (50%) and least likely to donate skin (40%). Most respondents (58%) felt that next of kin should not be able to override a person's desire to donate organs as signified by an organ donor card. Few people (7%) supported the concept of presumed consent. We conclude that while the public is supportive of organ transplantation, it is not overly enthusiastic about organ donation. Awareness of this paradox on behalf of the public may actually facilitate organ donation.

(JAMA 1985;253:3111-3115)