Hospital Staff Organ Donation Requests Are Less Effective
"[P]ublic education" is needed, according to researchers investigating the factors that influence families' decisions on whether to donate a deceased family member's organs, to "modify attitudes" about organ donation. In a study appearing in yesterday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers interviewed 420 families involved in "donor-eligible" deaths at nine trauma hospitals in southwestern Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio from 1994 to 1999 (Siminoff et al, Journal of the American Medical Association, 7/4). Overall, families of white patients, younger patients and male patients were "more likely" to give their consent for donation. After interviewing the surviving family members, researchers found that hospital workers spent "less time" discussing the possibility of organ donation when they "believed a family was leaning against donation." Also, if hospital staff broach the topic of donation "apologetically," families were less likely to approve of donation (Snowbeck, PittsburghPost-Gazette, 7/4). However, the study found that families were three times as likely to donate if an initial request from the hospital staff was followed by one from an organ procurement organization (Journal of the American Medical Association, 7/4). Therefore, due to the "scarc[ity]" of organs, study author Dr. Bob Arnold, a bioethicist at the University of Pittsburgh, said it is "more important than ever" that regional procurement organizations "coordinate the recovery and distribution" of organs. The procurement organizations are better suited to answer family questions that hospital staff "shouldn't be expected to know," according to Arnold, such as how organs will be removed from the body and how the process will affect funeral arrangements (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/4).