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Attitudes toward death criteria and organ donation among healthcare personnel and the general public

Attitudes toward death criteria and organ donation among healthcare personnel and the general public

Progress in Transplantation 16(1): 65-73

To examine attitudes toward death criteria and their relation to attitudes and behaviors regarding organ donation. This article reviews empirical studies on the attitudes of healthcare personnel and the general public regarding death criteria and organ donation. The review was restricted to studies that had as a primary focus attitudes toward 1 or more of the following 3 specific criteria for determining death: (1) brain death, the irreversible loss of all functions of the entire brain; (2) higher brain death, the loss of cerebral cortex function alone; and (3) the circulatory-respiratory criteria commonly used in donation after cardiac death. Studies consistently show that the general public and some medical personnel are inadequately familiar with the legal and medical status of brain death; attitudes toward the dead donor rule are strong predictors of willingness to donate organs using controversial criteria; concerns about donation after cardiac death surround the withdrawal of life support more than the actual death criteria used; and concerns about death criteria correlate with less favorable attitudes toward organ donation. Both general and ethical education may serve to guide policy and facilitate family member requests and informed consent dialogues. Furthermore, helping families to understand and accept not only medical and legal criteria for determining death, but also ethical criteria for withdrawing life support may help them be more comfortable with their decisions.

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Accession: 048335588

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PMID: 16676677

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