The Journal of Clinical Ethics
Joshua S. Baru, Brian P. Lucas, Carmen Martinez, and Daniel Brauner, “Organ Donation among Undocumented Hispanic Immigrants: An Assessment of Knowledge and Attitudes,” The Journal of Clinical Ethics 24, no. 4 (Winter 2013): 364-72.
Undocumented immigrants can donate their organs, but lack access to organ transplantation. This challenges foundational principles of organ donation: fairness and informed consent. Little is known about undocumented immigrants’ knowledge of barriers to their access to organ transplantation or how this might affect their decision to donate their organs.
The study was performed in an urban, university-affiliated, safety-net hospital. We interviewed hospitalized patients who self-identified as undocumented immigrants and were unaware of having any contraindication to organ donation (for example, cancer). We first recorded their demographic characteristics and knowledge and attitudes regarding organ donation. We then assessed the effects of informing participants about limits to their access to organ transplants on their willingness to donate.
This group of 59 uninsured Hispanic immigrants had adequate knowledge about organ donation. Participants were suspicious about inequality within the medical system, but most were willing to donate their organs (74 percent). Most participants (74 percent) were aware that they would have to pay to receive an organ, but they dramatically underestimated the out-of-pocket expenses. Yet willingness to donate their organs was unaffected by participants being explicitly informed of the low likelihood that they would be able to afford to receive an organ transplant.
Despite being well informed about the organ donation system, undocumented Hispanic immigrants underestimate the costs and overestimate their likelihood of receiving an organ. Even when they are given this information, they remain willing to donate their own organs.
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