Determining the psychosocial predictors of living, living-related, and posthumous organ donation

Hyde, Melissa Karen (2009) Determining the psychosocial predictors of living, living-related, and posthumous organ donation. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


The worldwide organ shortage occurs despite people’s positive organ donation attitudes. The discrepancy between attitudes and behaviour is evident in Australia particularly, with widespread public support for organ donation but low donation and communication rates. This problem is compounded further by the paucity of theoretically based research to improve our understanding of people’s organ donation decisions. This program of research contributes to our knowledge of individual decision making processes for three aspects of organ donation: (1) posthumous (upon death) donation, (2) living donation (to a known and unknown recipient), and (3) providing consent for donation by communicating donation wishes on an organ donor consent register (registering) and discussing the donation decision with significant others (discussing). The research program used extended versions of the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) and the Prototype/Willingness Model (PWM), incorporating additional influences (moral norm, self-identity, organ recipient prototypes), to explicate the relationship between people’s positive attitudes and low rates of organ donation behaviours. Adopting the TPB and PWM (and their extensions) as a theoretical basis overcomes several key limitations of the extant organ donation literature including the often atheoretical nature of organ donation research, thefocus on individual difference factors to construct organ donor profiles and the omission of important psychosocial influences (e.g., control perceptions, moral values) that may impact on people’s decision-making in this context. In addition, the use of the TPB and PWM adds further to our understanding of the decision making process for communicating organ donation wishes. Specifically, the extent to which people’s registering and discussing decisions may be explained by a reasoned and/or a reactive decision making pathway is examined (Stage 3) with the novel application of the TPB augmented with the social reaction pathway in the PWM. This program of research was conducted in three discrete stages: a qualitative stage (Stage 1), a quantitative stage with extended models (Stage 2), and a quantitative stage with augmented models (Stage 3). The findings of the research program are reported in nine papers which are presented according to the three aspects of organ donation examined (posthumous donation, living donation, and providing consent for donation by registering or discussing the donation preference). Stage One of the research program comprised qualitative focus groups/interviews with university students and community members (N = 54) (Papers 1 and 2). Drawing broadly on the TPB framework (Paper 1), content analysed responses revealed people’s commonly held beliefs about the advantages and disadvantages (e.g., prolonging/saving life), important people or groups (e.g., family), and barriers and motivators (e.g., a family’s objection to donation), related to living and posthumous organ donation. Guided by a PWM perspective, Paper Two identified people’s commonly held perceptions of organ donors (e.g., altruistic and giving), non-donors (e.g., self-absorbed and unaware), and transplant recipients (e.g., unfortunate, and in some cases responsible/blameworthy for their predicament). Stage Two encompassed quantitative examinations of people’s decision makingfor living (Papers 3 and 4) and posthumous (Paper 5) organ donation, and for registering and discussing donation wishes (Papers 6 to 8) to test extensions to both the TPB and PWM. Comparisons of health students’ (N = 487) motivations and willingness for living related and anonymous donation (Paper 3) revealed that a person’s donor identity, attitude, past blood donation, and knowing a posthumous donor were four common determinants of willingness, with the results highlighting students’ identification as a living donor as an important motive. An extended PWM is presented in Papers Four and Five. University students’ (N = 284) willingness for living related and anonymous donation was tested in Paper Four with attitude, subjective norm, donor prototype similarity, and moral norm (but not donor prototype favourability) predicting students’ willingness to donate organs in both living situations. Students’ and community members’ (N = 471) posthumous organ donation willingness was assessed in Paper Five with attitude, subjective norm, past behaviour, moral norm, self-identity, and prior blood donation all significantly directly predicting posthumous donation willingness, with only an indirect role for organ donor prototype evaluations. The results of two studies examining people’s decisions to register and/or discuss their organ donation wishes are reported in Paper Six. People’s (N = 24) commonly held beliefs about communicating their organ donation wishes were explored initially in a TPB based qualitative elicitation study. The TPB belief determinants of intentions to register and discuss the donation preference were then assessed for people who had not previously communicated their donation wishes (N = 123). Behavioural and normative beliefs were important determinants of registering and discussing intentions; however, control beliefs influenced people’s registering intentions only.
Paper Seven represented the first empirical test of the role of organ transplant recipient prototypes (i.e., perceptions of organ transplant recipients) in people’s (N = 465) decisions to register consent for organ donation. Two factors, Substance Use and Responsibility, were identified and Responsibility predicted people’s organ donor registration status. Results demonstrated that unregistered respondents were the most likely to evaluate transplant recipients negatively. Paper Eight established the role of organ donor prototype evaluations, within an extended TPB model, in predicting students’ and community members’ registering (n = 359) and discussing (n = 282) decisions. Results supported the utility of an extended TPB and suggested a role for donor prototype evaluations in predicting people’s discussing intentions only. Strong intentions to discuss donation wishes increased the likelihood that respondents reported discussing their decision 1-month later. Stage Three of the research program comprised an examination of augmented models (Paper 9). A test of the TPB augmented with elements from the social reaction pathway in the PWM, and extensions to these models was conducted to explore whether people’s registering (N = 339) and discussing (N = 315) decisions are explained via a reasoned (intention) and/or social reaction (willingness) pathway. Results suggested that people’s decisions to communicate their organ donation wishes may be better explained via the reasoned pathway, particularly for registering consent; however, discussing also involves reactive elements. Overall, the current research program represents an important step toward clarifying the relationship between people’s positive organ donation attitudes but low rates of organ donation and communication behaviours. Support has been demonstrated for the use of extensions to two complementary theories, the TPB and PWM, which can inform future research aiming to explicate further the organ donation attitude-behaviour relationship. The focus on a range of organ donation behaviours enables the identification of key targets for future interventions encouraging people’s posthumous and living donation decisions, and communication of their organ donation preference.

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ID Code: 29724
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: White, Katherine & Watson, Barry
Keywords: organ donation, living donation, posthumous donation, communication of donation wishes, theory of planned behaviour, prototype/willingness model
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 15 Jan 2010 04:34
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:54

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