Attitudes Regarding Organ Donation from Non-Heart-Beating Donors
Journal of Critical Care
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PURPOSE: To determine the attitudes toward organ donation from non-heart-beating cadaver donors in a sample of the general public and health care workers.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: A moderator-administered questionnaire was completed by members of the general public, recruited randomly from a professional consumer research group's database, and health care workers recruited from the same database, family practice clinics, and local hospitals. Two primary scenarios were tested: (1) patient in coma, not going to survive intensive care unit (ICU), and (2) patient lapsing in and out of consciousness, lifetime institutional care.
RESULTS: Sixty members of the general public and 68 health care workers completed the questionnaire. The majority of both groups were aware life support could be withdrawn in Scenario 1, however, significantly fewer were aware life support could also be withdrawn in Scenario 2 (83% general public vs 34% general public, P <.001 and 94% health care workers vs 78% health care workers, P =.012). Uncertainty in prognosis was cited as the primary concern. The issue of organ donation was directly linked with withdrawal of life support. The majority of both groups believed that organ donation would be permissible if further life support were deemed to be not in the patient's best interest because of poor short-term prognosis (94% health care workers and 98% general public for Scenario 1 and 87% health care workers and 81% general public for Scenario 2). The greatest difficulty arose in defining futility of care. Expected quality of life, patient's and family's values, opinions, and religious beliefs were felt to be most important in determining decisions regarding futility and withdrawal of life support. Physician beliefs and values were felt to influence decisions more than they should.
CONCLUSIONS: Both the general public and health care workers support the use of non-heart-beating cadaver donors once a decision has been made to withdraw life support. However, both groups raised concerns regarding how the decision to withdraw life support is made.