Goal: To assess public knowledge and attitudes towards the family’s role in deceased organ donation in Europe.
Methods: A systematic search was conducted in CINHAL, MEDLINE, PAIS Index, Scopus, PsycINFO, and Web of Science on December 15th, 2017. Eligibility criteria were socio-empirical studies conducted in Europe from 2008 to 2017 addressing either knowledge or attitudes by the public towards the consent system, including the involvement of the family in the decision-making process, for post-mortem organ retrieval. Screening and data collection were performed by two or more independent reviewers for each record.
Results: Of the 1482 results, 467 studies were assessed in full-text form, and 33 were included in this synthesis. When the deceased has not expressed any preference, a majority of the public support the family's role as a surrogate decision-maker. When the deceased expressly consented, the respondents' answers depend on whether they see themselves as potential donors or as a deceased's next-of-kin. Answers also depend on the relationship between the deceased and the decision-maker(s) within the family, and on their ethnic or cultural background.
Conclusions: Public views on the authority of the family in organ donation decision-making require further research. A common conceptual framework and validated well-designed questionnaires are needed for future studies. The findings should be considered in the development of Government policy and guidance regarding the role of families in deceased organ donation.