Background: A persistent shortage of organs and inexhaustible waiting lists continue to result in many people dying while awaiting transplantation. On July 1, 2006, the California Department of Motor Vehicles joined forces with California's Online Organ and Tissue Registry and launched a campaign to increase donation rates. This campaign included intense public and media education. The efficacy of such a campaign on donor demographics has not been studied.
Methods: Retrospective analysis was conducted of organ donor referrals and donations from all southern California hospitals covered by a regional organ procurement agency. Organ donor demographics from 2 years before (pretime: 2004–2005) and 2 years after (posttime: 2007–2008) were compared.
Results: Pretime included 6,112 referrals, 1,548 potential donors with 696 actual donors. Posttime included 7,119 referrals, 1,409 potential donors, and 699 actual donors. Consent for donation improved to 51.0% from 47.5% (p = 0.064), family decline decreased to 32.6% from 44.1% (p < 0.0001), and conversion rates improved to 49.6% from 45.0% (p = 0.011). Coroners also declined donation less frequently during posttime (1.8% vs. 0.6%, p = 0.004). Extended criteria donors improved to 9.5% from 3.8% (p < 0.0001), and donor after cardiac death improved to 3.0% from 1.4% (p = 0.002). A decrease in organs per donor was noted (3.57% vs. 3.14%, p < 0.0001) most likely because of the increase in extended criteria donors and donor after cardiac death.
Conclusions: Public and media education significantly improved organ donor demographics. Although this study compares only 2 years before with 2 years after the donation campaign, the results are extremely favorable. Therefore, a public donation campaign and an organ donor registry are effective promotions that could help increase the number of organs available for transplantation.