Attitudes Towards Organ Donation. Influence of Gender and Study Background

Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine

Duration: 2009-2015

Carried out by:

  • Dr. Sabine Wöhlke
  • Dr. Julia Inthorn
  • Dr.Larissa Pfaller
  • Dr. Solveig Lena Hansen
  • Moritz Boos, M.A.
  • Fabian Schmidt (med. Doktorand) 


Public surveys are an important tool for assessing acceptance and (un)willingness to donate organs. Various opinion polls suggest, that a majority responds in favor of organ transplantation, but the number of individuals holding an organ donor card, has remained on a low level for years. Apart from the assumed laziness of the public to sign up for organ donor cards, other explanations for this attitude-action gap might be found in hidden cultural factors.

On the other side, since many years, health professionals and politicians discuss various options of financial incentives to increase the organ supply rather than relying on altruism in organ donation.

In ethical and economical debates about financial incentives it is generally assumed that incentives will work. Therefore the critical question rather seems, whether it is ethically and legally acceptable. However, there is a lacuna of empirical studies which have systematically investigated whether more citizens will donate encouraged by financial incentives. .

A quantitative survey has been conducted among students of medical science and economics at a mid-sized central German university to gain insights into the willingness to donate living and post mortem organs and attitudes towards different forms of commercialization (n=755).  The questionnaire consisted of 55 closed questions, amongst others the following: previous knowledge of organ transplantation, passive and active willingness to consent to postmortem and living donation, problems of allocation and commercialization and socio-demographic data.

Data have been analyzed in order to gain insights in the impact of university subject and sex on the willingness to donate and motivation through financial incentives.


  • Schicktanz, S; Pfaller, L; Hansen, SL; Boos, M (2017): A Comparison of Attitudes towards Brain Death and Body Concepts in Relation to Willingness or Reluctance to Donate: Results of a Students’ Survey before and after the German Transplantation Scandals.Journal of Public Health,25, 249–256.
  • Schicktanz, S; Pfaller, L; Hansen, SL (2016): Einstellungen zur Organspende –kulturell tief verwurzelt. Deutsches Ärzteblatt113, 37, A1586–1588
  • Sabine Wöhlke, Julia Inthorn, Silke Schicktanz (2015): The Role of Body Concepts for Donation Willingness. Insights from a Survey with German Medical and Economics Students. In: Ralf J. Jox, Galia Assadi, & Georg Marckmann (Hrsg.): Organ Donation in Times of Donor Shortage. Challenges and Solutions, Dordrecht Heidelberg u.a.: Springer; S. 27-51.
  • Julia Inthorn, Sabine Wöhlke, Fabian Schmidt & Silke Schicktanz (2014): Impact of gender and professional education on attitudes towards financial incentives for organ donation: results of a survey among 755 students of medicine and economics in Germany. BMC Med Ethic, 15, 56, doi: 10.1186/1472-6939-15-56 (PDF)



Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz

Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz

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