African American Present Perceptions of Organ Donation: A Pilot Study

Article excerpt

Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of this pilot research project is to explore each of the five general areas of reluctance associated with organ donation among African Americans. These areas include: (l)a lack of awareness, (2) lack of trust by the medical profession, (3) fear of premature death, (4) discrimination, and (5) religious beliefs and misconceptions. Strategies will be explored that may help dispel the misconceptions about organ donation, and, at the same, increase awareness of the need for African Americans to become organ donors.

Method: A culturally sensitive 10-item survey was administered online to 70 African Americans to identify their perceptions about the five concerns related to participation in the organ donation program. Participants were recruited from clergy and sororities.

Results: Of the 70 African Americans who were sent the survey, 55 of the respondents completed the survey to yield a 78.6% rate of return. Most participants reported having some reservation concerning organ donation, and many of them reported that their reservations were related to their mistrust of the medical profession.

Conclusion: The perceptions of African Americans concerning organ donation remain an issue. The 5 areas of reluctance remain at the forefront for decision making in terms of becoming an organ donor. Continued education is needed in order to help dispel these issues.

Key Words: African American, Perceptions, Organ Donation, Health Disparities

Organ donation is one of many therapies for achieving an increased quality of life for many individuals with end stage organ failure (Arrióla, Perryman, Doldren, Warren, & Robinson, 2007). From heart transplantation to skin grafting, the world has seen lives transformed from hopelessness in surviving to feelings of joy and appreciation. Donation and transplantation continue to be a culturally sensitive health care issue, as well as a highly controversial subject for some people of color. People are asked to become organ donors through various appeal processes, radio, T.V and celebrity presentation, because of the shortage of organ donors. While new advances in transplantation continue to improve the quality of life, gaps remain in the numbers of organs needed for African Americans.

In the United States it was estimated that more than 90,000 people were waiting for organ transplantation in 1997 (Amir & Haskell, 1997). According to Amir and Haskell, (1997) over 60,000 people die each year waiting for transplantation. A study done by Spigner, Weaver, Cardenas & Allen (2002) concluded that while the transplant list has decreased to about 75,000, the percentage of minority patients continues to increase. African Americans seem to be an ethnic group that is over-represented on the transplant watting list, because they are disproportionately impacted by various health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease (Arrióla et al., 2007). African Americans with end-stage organ failure wait longer than their White counter parts for transplantation. It is felt that reoccurring myths associated with the lack of participation continue to be at the center of this controversy. Because of the shortage of African American organ donors, strategies must be devised to dispel some of the misconceptions and help increase awareness and donations among African American population (Guadagnoli et al., 1999).

Other outlying issues add to the disproportion access to health care such as financial limitations for African Americans. For instance, the urban legions and other such specific groups will not accept care due to religious beliefs that organ donation is not mentioned in the Bible. Identification of the reluctance will assist nurses in their ability to provide culturally competent care.

Research has been conducted over the past twenty years in an attempt to understand the reasons that tissue and organ donation is not well received by some ethnic minorities. …