Primary Care Physicians' Attitudes and Practices Regarding Discussing Organ Donation with Their Patients

Primary care physicians rarely discuss organ donation with their patients despite the majority agreeing that the topic is both important and within their scope of practice. Lack of training, time and staff are cited as the biggest obstacles to talking about donation.

As the number of persons awaiting organ donation surpasses 100,000, finding new ways to increase donation gains urgency. It has been demonstrated that discussing organ donation with a primary care provider may be associated with increased willingness to donate. However, the frequency with which providers hold these discussions with their patients has not been reported. This study surveyed a national sample of 831 primary care physicians to determine their attitudes, knowledge and practices regarding organ donation.

Key Findings:

  • The majority of physicians supported organ donation (97%).
  • Few primary care physicians had received training on organ donation (17%), and their knowledge of the subject was limited.
  • Only five percent of physicians reported having donor cards available. Only 11 percent reported having donation information available in their practice.
  • Primary care physicians who were knowledgeable about donation and who regularly discussed end-of-life care with their patients were more likely to discuss donation.

The findings indicate that efforts to increase organ donation in the general population should focus on educating primary care providers about donation and improving communication between providers and patients. This study relies on physicians’ self reports, and thus may be subject to recall bias.