Our research has shown that presenting factual corrective information had no effect on donor intentions for those who plan to opt-out.
Latest figures indicate that there are more than 6,000 people in the UK currently on the waiting list for an organ transplant. However, a shortage of organs means that three people die every day while awaiting a transplant.
Although 90 percent of the UK population support organ donation, just 38 percent have signed up to the organ donor register. In an attempt to address this, Governments in Scotland and England are planning to follow Wales and introduce opt-out donor consent – which presumes consent unless a person chooses to opt-out.
Prior to the Stirling study, there had been limited research into the public attitudes and intentions regarding the proposed opt-out consent laws.
The researchers surveyed 1,202 people in the UK on their intentions under the proposed system – and found that 9.4 percent plan to opt-out, or are unsure of their decision. The team pointed out that, in reality, this number may be even higher as 70 percent of participants were already organ donors.
The survey found 66.1 percent would opt- in and 24.3 would give “deemed consent”.
Ms Miller said the research suggested that organ donation campaigns could be more effective if they focus on feelings, rather than facts, in an attempt to overcome deep-set emotional beliefs and increase donor intentions.
She continued: “Communication campaigns designed to dispel harmful myths about organ donation are frequently used on organ donation websites. However, our research has shown that presenting factual corrective information had no effect on donor intentions for those who plan to opt-out.
“Evidence has consistently shown that emotional barriers – or feelings – play the greatest role in influencing donor behaviours, however, the myth-busting campaign used by the NHS targets facts, rather than feelings. Therefore, interventions designed to target feelings and emotions may be more effective at increasing donor intentions.”
She added: “Before the introduction of opt-out consent laws, evaluation of alternative strategies to increase donor intentions are required.”
Funded by the University of Stirling’s Health and Behaviour Research Programme, the research, ‘What if I’m not dead’ – Myth-busting and organ donation, is published in the British Journal of Health Psychology.