Mass media campaigns and organ donation: Managing conflicting messages and interests

Mohamed Y. Rady, Joan McGregor, Joseph L. Verheijde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Mass media campaigns are widely and successfully used to change health decisions and behaviors for better or for worse in society. In the United States, media campaigns have been launched at local offices of the states' department of motor vehicles to promote citizens' willingness to organ donation and donor registration. We analyze interventional studies of multimedia communication campaigns to encourage organ-donor registration at local offices of states' department of motor vehicles. The media campaigns include the use of multifaceted communication tools and provide training to desk clerks in the use of scripted messages for the purpose of optimizing enrollment in organ-donor registries. Scripted messages are communicated to customers through mass audiovisual entertainment media, print materials and interpersonal interaction at the offices of departments of motor vehicles. These campaigns give rise to three serious concerns: (1) bias in communicating information with scripted messages without verification of the scientific accuracy of information, (2) the provision of misinformation to future donors that may result in them suffering unintended consequences from consenting to medical procedures before death (e. g, organ preservation and suitability for transplantation), and (3) the unmanaged conflict of interests for organizations charged with implementing these campaigns, (i. e, dual advocacy for transplant recipients and donors). We conclude the following: (1) media campaigns about healthcare should communicate accurate information to the general public and disclose factual materials with the least amount of bias; (2) conflicting interests in media campaigns should be managed with full public transparency; (3) media campaigns should disclose the practical implications of procurement as well as acknowledge the medical, legal, and religious controversies of determining death in organ donation; (4) organ-donor registration must satisfy the criteria of informed consent; (5) media campaigns should serve as a means of public education about organ donation and should not be a form of propaganda.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-241
Number of pages13
JournalMedicine, Health Care and Philosophy
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Brain death
  • Cardiac death
  • Departments of motor vehicles
  • Legislations
  • Media campaigns
  • Media communications
  • Media priming
  • Organ donation
  • Organ-donor registry
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Education
  • Health Policy


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