Community attitudes to deceased organ donation: A focus group study

Michelle Irving, Allison Tong, Stephen Jan, Alan Cass, Steve Chadban, Richard Allen, Jonathan Craig, Germaine Wong, Kirsten Howard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Despite broad community support for organ donation, there is a chronic shortage of donor organs for transplantation. This study elicited community attitudes on deceased organ donation and the current Australian organ donation system.

Methods: Thirteen focus groups with 114 participants aged between 18 and 75 years. Qualitative analysis using a grounded theory approach was used.

Results: Participants were generally positive toward deceased organ donation, but this did not always translate to decisions to be a donor. Three main categories of themes emerged. (1) Participants held core beliefs that both encouraged donation, such as "giving is good" and "saving lives," and discouraged donation, such as loss of body dignity, need for body wholeness, and differing medical care for donors. (2) A range of factors could influence how core beliefs were weighted in the decision-making process, including family, knowledge, information, media, grief, apathy, and fear. (3) Participants discussed the need for a simpler consent system where family members could not overrule their donation decision, greater public awareness for organ donation, and the availability of more information on the organ donation process.

Conclusions: Opportunities exist to improve deceased organ donation rates by education to improve confidence in the donation process, positive media coverage, and clear information on each religion's stance on organ donation. Options for greater public recognition for organ donors should be explored. Finally, our findings suggest that aspects of the current donation consent system are not aligned with community values, and reforms should be debated publicly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1064-1069
Number of pages6
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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