Understanding and overcoming the psychological barriers to organ donation

There is an insufficient supply of donor organs to meet the demand for organ transplantations worldwide. In the U.S. over 116,000 people are currently in need of an organ transplant. While 95% of US adults support organ donation, only 54%, are registered to donate their organs. This is a good example of the intention-behaviour gap. In the U.K. approximately 400 people will die each year whilst waiting for an organ. Internationally the demand for organ transplants far exceeds the available supply of donated organs. There is therefore an urgent need to identify and overcome the barriers to registration. In this talk I will review the evidence regarding barriers to people registering as posthumous organ donors. I will present evidence that emotional factors play a significant role, and I will review recent interventions that have attempted to overcome these emotional barriers and increase organ donor registrations using anticipated regret and reciprocity priming. I will also briefly review the evidence on “opt-in” versus “opt-out” transplant schemes.