‘What if I'm not dead?’ - Myth-busting and organ donation

Jordan Miller, Sinéad Currie, Ronan E. O'Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


In the United Kingdom, three people die every day awaiting an organ transplant. To address this, Scotland and England plan to follow Wales and introduce opt-out donor consent. However, emotional barriers, myths, and misconceptions may deter potential registrants. Our objectives were to estimate the number of people who plan to opt-out of the donor register and to test whether emotional barriers (e.g., medical mistrust) differentiated participants within this group. Finally, in an experimental manipulation, we tested whether intention to donate decreased by making emotional barriers more salient and increased following a widely used myth-busting intervention.

Mixed between–within design.

UK residents (n = 1,202) were asked whether they would choose opt-in, deemed consent, or opt-out/not sure if legislation changes to opt-out. Participants also completed measures of donor intentions at baseline, following a 12-item emotional barriers questionnaire and again, following a 9-item myth-busting intervention.

Findings indicate that 66.1% of participants selected to opt-in to the donor register, 24.3% selected deemed consent, and 9.4% selected opt-out/not sure. Emotional barriers, notably fears surrounding bodily integrity, were significantly elevated in participants who selected opt-out/not sure. Increasing the salience of emotional barriers reduced donor intentions in the opt-out/not sure group. However, dispelling organ donation myths did not increase intention within this group.

If opt-out legislation is introduced in Scotland and England, approximately 10% of participants plan to opt-out or are not sure. Dispelling organ donation myths with facts may not be the best method of overcoming emotional barriers and increasing donor intentions for those planning to opt-out.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-158
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2019


  • emotions
  • myths
  • opt-out consent
  • organ donation


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