Langenbeck's Archives of Surgery

, Volume 401, Issue 8, pp 1231–1239 | Cite as

Attitude towards organ donation in German medical students

  • Tobias Terbonssen
  • Utz Settmacher
  • Christine Wurst
  • Olaf Dirsch
  • Uta DahmenEmail author



It is well known that personal decision making in respect to organ donation is highly dependent on the balance of knowledge, trust, and fear. We wanted to explore the attitude of German medical students towards organ donation and investigate the relationship between knowledge, trust, and fear in this special subgroup.


We conducted an online survey utilizing (1) the snowball effect of using Facebook groups and advertisement as well as (2) mailing lists of medical faculties in Germany for distribution.


We surveyed 1370 medical students. 75.8 % (N = 988) of the participants stated to carry an organ donor card and allowed their organs to be donated. 1.8 % (N = 23) refused donation. 22.5 % (N = 293) did not carry an organ donor card. Analysis of the “decided” versus the “undecided” group revealed substantial differences regarding transplantation knowledge (mean knowledge score of 4.23 vs. 3.81; P < 0.001), trust in (mean trust score 4.11 vs. 3.39; P < 0.001), and fear of (mean fear score 1.63 vs. 2.22; P < 0.001) organ donation. 45.9 % of the undecided group (N = 134) opted for accessing additional information material. After reading the info material, 22.7 % (N = 29) stated their willingness to sign a donor card, whereas 76.6 % (N = 98) still could not reach a decision.


The willingness to potentially act as organ donor was related to the pre-existent knowledge, trust, and fear. Access to information material did promote the decision towards organ donation in a group of previously undecided medical students. This advocates initiating information campaigns even in population groups with strong medical background.


Organ donation Medical students Knowledge Fear Trust Germany 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Author contributions

- Study conception and design: Terbonssen T, Settmacher U, Wurst C, Dirsch O, Dahmen U

- Acquisition of data: Terbonssen T

- Analysis and interpretation of data: Terbonssen T

- Drafting of manuscript: Terbonssen T, Dahmen U

- Critical revision of manuscript: Settmacher U, Wurst C, Dirsch O, Dahmen U


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tobias Terbonssen
    • 1
  • Utz Settmacher
    • 2
  • Christine Wurst
    • 2
  • Olaf Dirsch
    • 3
  • Uta Dahmen
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of General, Visceral and Vascular Surgery, Experimental Transplantation SurgeryUniversity Hospital JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.Department of General, Visceral and Vascular SurgeryUniversity Hospital JenaJenaGermany
  3. 3.Klinikum Chemnitz gGmbHInstitute for pathologyChemnitzGermany

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