Web-Based Perspectives of Deemed Consent Organ Donation Legislation in Nova Scotia: Thematic Analysis of Commentary in Facebook Groups

Web-Based Perspectives of Deemed Consent Organ Donation Legislation in Nova Scotia: Thematic Analysis of Commentary in Facebook Groups
Alessandro R Marcon, Darren N Wagner, Carly Giles, Cynthia Isenor
JMIR Infodemiology, 14 September 2022; 2(2)
The Canadian province of Nova Scotia recently became the first jurisdiction in North America to implement deemed consent organ donation legislation. Changing the consent models constituted one aspect of a larger provincial program to increase organ and tissue donation and transplantation rates. Deemed consent legislation can be controversial among the public, and public participation is integral to the successful implementation of the program.
Social media constitutes key spaces where people express opinions and discuss topics, and social media discourse can influence public perceptions. This project aimed to examine how the public in Nova Scotia responded to legislative changes in Facebook groups.
Using Facebook’s search engine, we searched for posts in public Facebook groups using the terms “deemed consent,” “presumed consent,” “opt out,” or “organ donation” and “Nova Scotia,” appearing from January 1, 2020, to May 1, 2021. The finalized data set included 2337 comments on 26 relevant posts in 12 different public Nova Scotia–based Facebook groups. We conducted thematic and content analyses of the comments to determine how the public responded to the legislative changes and how the participants interacted with one another in the discussions.
Our thematic analysis revealed principal themes that supported and critiqued the legislation, raised specific issues, and reflected on the topic from a neutral perspective. Subthemes showed individuals presenting perspectives through a variety of themes, including compassion, anger, frustration, mistrust, and a range of argumentative tactics. The comments included personal narratives, beliefs about the government, altruism, autonomy, misinformation, and reflections on religion and death. Content analysis revealed that Facebook users reacted to popular comments with “likes” more than other reactions. Comments with the most reactions included both negative and positive perspectives about the legislation. Personal donation and transplantation success stories, as well as attempts to correct misinformation, were some of the most “liked” positive comments.
The findings provide key insights into perspectives of individuals from Nova Scotia on deemed consent legislation, as well as organ donation and transplantation broadly. The insights derived from this analysis can contribute to public understanding, policy creation, and public outreach efforts that might occur in other jurisdictions considering the enactment of similar legislation.

Editor’s note: JMIR Infodemiology focuses on determinants and distribution of health information and misinformation on the internet, and its effect on public and individual health.

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