Attitudes to organ donation among some urban South African populations remain unchanged: A cross-sectional study (1993 - 2013)

Harriet R Etheredge, Roseanne E Turner, Delawir Kahn


Background. A 1993 paper in the SAMJ suggested that public attitudes to organ donation in South Africa were positive. However, statistics reveal a decline in the annual number of transplants in this country.

Objective. To repeat the 1993 survey as far as possible and determine whether public attitudes to organ donation in some South African populations have changed over the past 20 years.

Methods. The 1993 study was replicated in 2012 to generate a current data set. This was compared with the raw data from the 1993 study, and an analysis of percentages was used to determine variations.

Results. Generally attitudes to organ donation have not changed since 1993, remaining positive among the study population. However, individuals are significantly more hesitant to consider donating the organs of a relative without being aware of that person’s donation preference. Individuals in the black African study population are currently more willing to donate kidneys than in 1993 (66% v. 81%; p<0.0001), but less willing to donate a heart (64% v. 38%; p<0.0001, a liver (40% v. 34%; p<0.036) and corneas (22% v. 15%, p<0.0059).

Conclusions. Publicity campaigns aimed at raising awareness of organ donation should emphasise the importance of sharing donation preferences with one’s family in order to mitigate discomfort about making a decision on behalf of another. These campaigns should be culturally and linguistically sensitive. The study should be repeated in all populations over time to continually gauge attitudes.

Authors' affiliations

Harriet R Etheredge, Health Communication Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Roseanne E Turner, Department of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Parow, Cape Town, South Africa

Delawir Kahn, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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organ donation; organ transplantation; public attitudes

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2014;104(2):133-137. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.7519

Article History

Date submitted: 2013-09-18
Date published: 2014-01-09

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