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Racial and Ethnic Preference in Organ Donation

The reasons behind lower organ donation rates among African Americans involve discussions and examinations surrounding “knowledge and attitudes about brain death, donation, and transplantation and trust in the health care system,” [1]. Some factors that influence one’s decision to become a donor include “cultural norms defining families and close personal relationships and could vary based on potential donors' perceived closeness to various recipients,” and such perception can be influenced by race and ethnicity [2]. Some other factors include “social values, death taboo, ignorance, and procrastination,” [3]. “An ethical and legal framework is mandatory” regarding organ donation. With organ donation, people must “understand the involved principles, so that they can contribute to increasing the rate of organ donation and maintaining public confidence,” [3].

Factors that influence people to donate include a “signed donor card and willingness to donate one's own and a loved one's organs,” [1]. African Americans have lower rates of signing a donor card when compared to white Americans. This is due to a lack of trust African Americans hold in the health care system because reports shows that white donors receive more tangible benefits [1].

Although it seems that things like organ donation should be an easy decision to make, it’s understandable why people have a distrust in the health care system and make the choice to not become organ donors. Though aspects of society, like the health care system, should always be fair and equitable, it just isn’t always the reality, and to disagree with this would mean dismissing the experiences and feelings of those who face the bad end of the inequity that exists. The distrust that the health care system has created amongst the African American community and other minority groups is taking away from individuals whose lives could be saved. If the health care system was able to mend the distrust that has persisted for decades, these minority groups could grow to be more willing to sign donor cards. The right changes in the health care system would benefit donors and those receiving the donations.


1. Siminoff, L. A., Burant, C. J., & Ibrahim, S. A. (2006). Racial disparities in preferences and perceptions regarding organ donation. Journal of general internal medicine, 21(9), 995–1000.

2. Purnell, T. S., Powe, N. R., Troll, M. U., Wang, N. Y., Haywood, C., Jr, LaVeist, T. A., & Boulware, L. E. (2013). Measuring and explaining racial and ethnic differences in willingness to donate live kidneys in the United States. Clinical transplantation, 27(5), 673–683.

3. Cotrau, P., Hodosan, V., Vladu, A., Daina, C., Daina, L. G., & Pantis, C. (2019). Ethical, Socio-Cultural and Religious Issues in Organ Donation. Maedica, 14(1), 12–14.



Authors: Sara Giarnieri and Diya Jacob

Editors: Lauryn Agron and Sara Giarnieri

Health scientist: Diya Jacob

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