Open Access Open Badges Research article

Impact of gender and professional education on attitudes towards financial incentives for organ donation: results of a survey among 755 students of medicine and economics in Germany

Julia Inthorn, Sabine Wöhlke*, Fabian Schmidt and Silke Schicktanz

Author Affiliations

Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, University Medical Center Göttingen, Humboldtallee 36, 37073 Göttingen, Germany

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BMC Medical Ethics 2014, 15:56  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-56

Published: 5 July 2014



There is an ongoing expert debate with regard to financial incentives in order to increase organ supply. However, there is a lacuna of empirical studies on whether citizens would actually support financial incentives for organ donation.


Between October 2008 and February 2009 a quantitative survey was conducted among German students of medicine and economics to gain insights into their point of view regarding living and deceased organ donation and different forms of commercialization (n = 755).


The average (passive) willingness to donate is 63.5% among medical students and 50.0% among students of economics (p = 0.001), while only 24.1% of the respondents were actually holding an organ donor card. 11.3% of students of economics had signed a donor card, however, the number is significantly higher among students of medicine (31.9%, p < 0.001). Women held donor cards significantly more often (28.6%) than men (19.4%, p = 0.004). The majority of students were against direct payments as incentives for deceased and living donations. Nevertheless, 37.5% of the respondents support the idea that the funeral expenses of deceased organ donors should be covered. Women voted significantly less often for the coverage of expenses than men (women 31.6%, men 44.0%, p = 0.003). The number of those in favor of allowing to sell one’s organs for money (living organ donation) was highest among students of economics (p = 0.034).


Despite a generally positive view on organ donation the respondents refuse to consent to commercialization, but are in favor of removing disincentives or are in favor of indirect models of reward.

Organ donation; Financial incentives; Survey; Students; Gender