Attitudes of European students towards family decision-making and the harmonisation of consent systems in deceased organ donation: a cross-national survey

Attitudes of European students towards family decision-making and the harmonisation of consent systems in deceased organ donation: a cross-national survey
Research
Alberto Molina-Pérez, Gabriele Werner-Felmayer, Kristof Van Assche, Anja M. B. Jensen, Janet Delgado, Magdalena Flatscher-Thöni, Ivar R. Hannikainen, David Rodriguez-Arias, Silke Schicktanz, Sabine Wöhlke
BMC Public Health, 15 November 2022; 22(2080)
Open Access
Abstract
Background
European countries are increasingly harmonising their organ donation and transplantation policies. Although a growing number of nations are moving to presumed consent to deceased organ donation, no attempts have been made to harmonise policies on individual consent and the role of the family in the decision-making process. Little is known about public awareness of and attitudes towards the role of the family in their own country and European harmonisation on these health policy dimensions. To improve understanding of these issues, we examined what university students think about the role of the family in decision-making in deceased organ donation and about harmonising consent policies within Europe.
Methods
Using LimeSurvey© software, we conducted a comparative cross-sectional international survey of 2193 university students of health sciences and humanities/social sciences from Austria (339), Belgium (439), Denmark (230), Germany (424), Greece (159), Romania (190), Slovenia (190), and Spain (222).
Results
Participants from opt-in countries may have a better awareness of the family’s legal role than those from opt-out countries. Most respondents opposed the family veto, but they were more ambivalent towards the role of the family as a surrogate decision-maker. The majority of participants were satisfied with the family’s legal role. However, those who were unsatisfied preferred to limit family involvement. Overall, participants were opposed to the idea of national sovereignty over consent policies. They favoured an opt-out policy harmonisation and were divided over opt-in. Their views on harmonisation of family involvement were consistent with their personal preferences.
Conclusions
There is overall division on whether families should have a surrogate role, and substantial opposition to granting them sole authority over decision-making. If European countries were to harmonise their policies on consent for organ donation, an opt-out system that grants families a surrogate decision-making role may enjoy the widest public support.

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