A survey released by WebMD and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center revealed that lack of awareness, misperceptions and biases about liver disease and transplantation, especially living donation, are significant factors contributing to a lack of available organs, according to a press release.
“Our survey results showed that people are willing to donate to save a life, particularly if they know the person, but, potential donors, patients and physicians may not know all available options, and others may have misperceptions about the transplant process,” Abhi Humar, MD, division chief of UPMC Transplant Services, said in the release. “We need to increase awareness and knowledge.”
The survey, Understanding Attitudes and Perceptions About Liver Disease and Transplantation, comprised more than 4,600 consumers and 660 physicians. Most respondents were aware of living donation and aid they would donate to someone they knew, however the results clearly identified obstacles to increasing donation.
Those willing to donate dropped to 39% in the case of someone they did not know and to 36% for a person whose transplant was needed due to substance abuse. Respondents were also unwilling to donate due to concerns about potential risks (44%), uncertainty about the procedure (39%), and uncertainty about the costs (28%).
While 48% of respondents were willing to ask a friend or family member to donate if they needed a liver, those willing to ask a non-friend or family member dropped to 23%. Among surveyed patients with liver disease, 10% learned about living donation from their physician, and approximately 43% of physicians reported a lack of knowledge regarding living-donor liver transplantation.
“There is much to be excited about in the field of organ transplant, yet misperceptions are hindering our ability to reap all the benefits,” John Whyte, MD, chief medical officer of WebMD, said in the release. “This lack of understanding showed by respondents contributes to the gap in donors and unnecessary deaths. We need to do a better job of communicating the realities of liver disease and liver donation, and change the misperceptions that surround the issue, particularly given the capacity for medical innovation to save lives through living donation.”