A Systematic Literature Review and Research Agenda for Organ Donation Decision Communication

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This study systematically located and appraised peer-reviewed evidence for the efficacy of strategies to increase organ donation decision communication among adults including an assessment of study quality to guide future research in this field. There is little room to move in strengthening unanimously positive public attitudes toward organ donation. Consequently, researchers have called for a focus on organ donation decision communication to understand modifiable factors to increase organ donation rates.


Multiple databases were searched during September 2015, and 44 studies were selected for inclusion. Data concerning participants, design, and outcomes were extracted. Studies were rated for quality and levels of evidence.


Although not amenable to meta-analysis, the literature indicates that approximately 50% of adults who are willing to become an organ donor have discussed this decision with family. The majority of research was conducted in a Western context with an overrepresentation of students. Strategies to increase communication include education, motivation, input from lived experience, efforts to address salient audience beliefs, and scheduled reminders or prompts. Intentions and willingness to discuss organ donation were consistently positively related to discussion behavior; however, formative research and experimental studies testing theoretically driven interventions were scarce.


There is mixed evidence for the role of demographic and attitudinal characteristics in the success of organ donation communication interventions. Additional theoretically based research is recommended to establish boundary conditions and validate strategies to increase organ donation decision communication among adults.

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