Miller J, Currie S & O'Carroll RE (2019) 'If I donate my organs it's a gift, if you take them it's theft': a qualitative study of planned donor decisions under opt-out legislation. BMC Public Health, 19, Art. No.: 1463. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7774-1
Background: There is a worldwide shortage of donor organs for transplantation. To overcome this, several countries have introduced an opt-out donor consent system. This system, soon planned for Scotland and England means individuals are automatically deemed to consent for organ donation unless they register an opt-out decision. This study was designed to explore the reasons underpinning donor choices for people who plan to actively opt-in to the register, take no action and be on the register via deemed consent, opt-out, and those who are unsure of their decision.
Methods: This study reports the analysis of free-text responses obtained from a large survey of intentions towards opt-out legislation in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland (n = 1202). Of the n = 1202 participants who completed the questionnaire, n = 923 provided a free text response explaining their views. Thematic analysis was used to explore the reasons why participants plan to: opt-in (n = 646), follow deemed consent (n = 205), opt-out (n = 32) and those who were not sure (n = 40)
Results: A key theme for people planning to opt-in is that it ensures one’s donor choice is explicitly clear and unequivocal. Some regarded deemed consent as unclear and open to ambiguity, thus actively opting-in was viewed as a way of protecting against family uncertainty and interference. For the deemed consent group, a key theme is that it represents a simple effortless choice. This is important from both a pragmatic time-saving point of view and because it protects ambivalent participants from making a challenging emotive choice about organ donation. Key themes for those planning to opt-out relate to fears around medical mistrust and bodily integrity. Notably, both participants who plan to opt-out and opt-in perceived presumed consent as “authoritarian” and a method of increasing Government control of organs. In response, registering an active decision protected their freedom of choice.
Conclusions: The findings highlight the importance of registering deliberate active consent for people who choose opt-in, due to concerns over possible family refusal under deemed consent. These findings could inform the development of communication campaigns that encourage family communication before the implementation of opt-out legislation.
Organ Donation; Opt-out Consent; Medical Mistrust; Bodily Integrity; Family Refusal; Qualitative Study
BMC Public Health: Volume 19