How large is the organ donor potential in Germany? Results of an analysis of data collected on deceased with primary and secondary brain damage in intensive care unit from 2002 to 2005

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The number of potential organ donors depends on various factors, among which the number of deceased with primary or secondary brain damage is the most decisive. In the north-east donor region of Germany with 7.69 million inhabitants, 2019 cases of deceased with primary or secondary brain damage were reported by 136 intensive care units during 2002–2005. In a study, 64% of these deceased were identified as potential donors. This represents 40.7 potential donors per million inhabitants. It can be concluded that in the other donor regions of Germany a comparable number of potential donors exists, yet not all possible donors are being detected and referred. The conversion rate (percentage of potential donors who become effective donors) in the years 2002–2005 was 47%. The main reason for the conversion rate being so low was the large number of relatives who declined an organ donation (73%). More than 90% of the relatives in the north-east region did not know the deceased's will in the acute situation. From our point of view the high refusal rate can be decreased mainly by two measures: improvement of the family approach and integrating the topic of organ donation into schools' curricula.

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