Racial Disparities in Preferences and Perceptions Regarding Organ Donation

African Americans are less likely than whites to donate their organs or agree to donate a loved one's organs. This study seeks to identify reasons for lower organ donation rates among African Americans by comparing knowledge and attitudes about brain death, donation, transplantation and trust in the health care system. Data were collected from 1,283 randomly selected adults in Ohio using a random digit dial telephone survey. The content and language of the survey were formulated based on results from 12 focus groups with a cross-section of the population. This study confirmed previous findings from other studies that showed a gap between the willingness of whites and African Americans to donate. The researchers found, however, that many more African Americans would be willing to donate than actually do and that they are, as a group, supportive of incentives for donation.

Attitudes toward organ donation among African Americans appear to be affected by pervasive distrust in the health care system. They are more likely than whites to believe that health care professionals will not do as much to save their lives if they are designated organ donors, and to characterize the organ distribution system as unfair. The authors suggest that future studies should evaluate strategies to improve the trust of African Americans in the health care system in general and in the organ donation process in particular.