Community preferences for the allocation of deceased donor organs for transplantation: a focus group study

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Solid organ transplantation is the treatment of choice for those with organ failure, but suitable organs are a limited community resource. Little is known about community preferences for the allocation of those organs. We aimed to determine community preferences for organ allocation and reasons for their choices.

 Participants were recruited from the community in four states in Australia. In focus groups, they identified and discussed attributes that they believed were important for allocating organs to potential recipients. Transcripts were analysed thematically.

 Thirteen focus groups with 114 participants were conducted. Four major themes emerged: (i) saving and improving the lives; (ii) lowering the risk of lost opportunities; (iii) fairness and (iv) accountability. While happy to discuss general principles, many were not comfortable making organ allocation decisions and were happy to defer to health professionals; this reticence tended to disappear when discussing the use of their own organs.

 Participants wanted to save as many lives as possible as well as lower the risk of lost opportunities for those on the waiting list by maximizing the chances of success of every donation. A rational utilitarian ethical model of organ allocation, therefore, appeared to be the dominant framework adopted by the community. Key considerations were compatibility, high chance of peri-operative survival and favouring those with positive lifestyle and self-management choices. Communication between the transplant community and general community about organ allocation could be undertaken to create trust and shared understanding, which may ultimately increase organ donation rates in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2187-2193
Number of pages7
JournalNephrology Dialysis Transplantation
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2013


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