Sex disparities in organ donation: Finding an equitable donor pool

Erika Yee, Seyedeh Maryam Hosseini, Bianca Duarte, Shannon M. Knapp, Molly Carnes, Bessie Young, Nancy K. Sweitzer, Khadijah Breathett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The majority of living organ donors are women, but few are deceased organ donors, which increases risks associated with sex mismatched organs. We sought to identify reasons for sex disparities in organ donation and strategies for equity. METHODS AND RESULTS: Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, we examined US adults’ perceptions regarding donation in a mixed-methods survey study. Results were compared by sex with Fisher’s exact test and T-tests for quantitative results and qualitative descriptive analyses for write-in responses. Among 667 participants (55% women), the majority of men (64.8%) and women (63.4%) self-identified as registered donors. Women’s willingness to donate their own organs to family members (P=0.03) or strangers (P=0.03) was significantly higher than men. Donors from both sexes were guided by: desire to help, personal experience, and believing organs would be useless to deceased donors. Non-donors from both sexes were guided by: no reason, medical mistrust, contemplating donation. When considering whether to donate organs of a deceased family member, women were equally guided by a family member’s wishes and believing the family member had no further use for or-gans. Men had similar themes but valued the family member’s wishes more. Among non-donors, both sexes would consider donation if more information was provided. CONCLUSIONS: In a national survey, both sexes had similar reasons for becoming and not becoming an organ donor. However, compared with men, women were more willing to donate their organs to family members and strangers. Improving educa-tion and communicating wishes regarding organ donation with direct relatives may increase sex equity in deceased organ donation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere020820
JournalJournal of the American Heart Association
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 5 2021


  • Organ donation
  • Sex disparities
  • Women’s health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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