Between 1995 and 2000, the number of patients on the waiting list for an organ transplant grew by 80%. With this growing demand for organs, authors Mocan and Tekin investigate what makes people want to be donors. Using information primarily on young adults in the US and Europe, the authors find three types of factors that affect willingness to donate: factors not influenced by policy makers, quick policy actions and long-term influences. The findings indicate ways for campaigns to increase willingness to donate, such as increasing knowledge on the rules of donating and transplants.
The authors use information from the United States and the European Unions in order to incorporate a wide spectrum of data. The US data came from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), the largest study of adolescents ever. It contains 15,170 adolescent surveys from 2002, with questions pertaining specifically to organ donor registration. In addition, the 18-28 year olds answered personal questions on age, race, political views, and emergency room visits.
The European Union data came from the Eurobarometer series from 2002. Although the study included a sample of all citizens 15 European union member who were 15 and older, the authors only used the entries from the ages 18-28 to keep the two countries focused on the same task. This study includes questions such as willingness to be a donor, donor registration and if the participant knew the rules, which govern donation in their country.
For factors that are not influenced by policy makers, Macon and Tekin find evidence to suggest that resources could be allocated toward targeting certain groups in information campaigns. In the US, race is a large factor. Even though whites are 14% more likely to be a donor, blacks are 7% less likely and Hispanics 11%. Past research says that blacks distrust the medical system that treated them poorly in the past and Hispanics fear unfair treatment from doctors if they are donors (i.e. doctors will give poor treatment to get the organs). Campaigns could target both groups. In addition, males are 9% more likely than females in the US, while males are less likely in the European Union. Political affiliation and religion also seem to play a part. In both the US and EU, liberals are more likely to be donors than those on the right (8% in the US). In the US, Catholics are 4% less likely to be donors than other religious groups.
The authors also consider quick policy actions that can affect people’s decisions in the short-term. In the EU, familiarity with the rules on donation and transplants significantly increased the probability of being a donor by 18-21%. Also, the Add Health information on volunteer work indicated that young people doing community service within the past 12 months had 4% more chance of people donors.
Long-term influences include the participant’s education as well as one’s mother’s educations. In the EU, each additional year of education amounted to a .4% increase in probability of being a donor. A high school education of one’s mother adds 7%, and more than high school adds to 12%.
The authors add that there could be different policies to increase giving. In Spain, all citizens are automatically donors unless they opt out. In the US, an “opt-in” system exists where citizens must actively choose to be a donor. However, this paper focused on working with present policies.
As the statistics in the introduction show, the state of the organ donation is dire. So many people fear being donors because they think they will show up with a horrible problem, and the doctors will want to organs badly enough to not give proper medical treatment. The problem is cyclical, as if there were no excess demand, people wouldn’t fear mistreatment from doctors. Understanding how to squelch the fears of being a donor is important.
This paper did not include much explanation of how the tests were run. In addition, I think the age limitation could have swayed the findings. I feel younger people might be more open to the idea of donating, possibly because they don’t yet fear death and older people might.
This is such an important topic. In our country, one must ‘opt’ in, or actively check a box to say he will be a donor. This means many do not become donors not out of fear, but indifference. We need to reach people, to make them understand that they could save an other’s life. So many organs wasted. As morbid as it may sound, one never knows when one could be in a horrible car accident. I know I would want my death to not be utterly useless. Even in death, we can help others.