Consider the child: Minor donation is a major issue

Child organ diagram

Rezi, the child organ and tissue recipient character in Netherlands’ educational program DonorDenkers (Source: donordenkers.nl)

By Marion Siebelink

University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. m.j.siebelink@umcg.nl

Pediatric organ donation: The basics

Children on the waiting list for transplantation die because of a shortage in size-matched organs. These organs and tissues generally come from other children. Organ donation in pediatrics is a very sensitive process. A deeper understanding of what influences pediatric organ and tissue procurement is a necessary step towards addressing the low number of child donors.

Literature about donation in pediatrics is sparse. My colleagues and I conducted a qualitative and quantitative study that approaches the topic from four domains; medical-organizational, psychological-communicative, social, and legal-ethical. The goal of the study is to gain insight into the factors that influence the donation decision, to improve the donation process in pediatrics and to understand more about the public opinion in this respect (Siebelink et al 2012).

The overall target of this study is to optimize the complex chain of events that constitute pediatric organ donation, in order to stimulate a careful approach that will support better decisions at every stage and help develop best practices. To learn more about the study there is an original Dutch press release on the research from the University Medical Center Groningen.

Public awareness and education

The public campaigns to promote organ donation only focus on adults. The question is how to increase the awareness of young people. From earlier research we know that children from a certain age are able and willing to think about this topic. (Siebelink et al 2011). Children need proper information to form an opinion about organ donation. One way to reach children is with educational programs in school. In the Netherlands we created a digital educational website called DonorDenkers (thinking about donation) for children aged 11 -13 years old. This is the first formal educational lesson plan of its kind in the world. The effects of this module and our study findings highlight how important it is to present proper information which can also trigger a family discussion. Some people are convinced that children at this age are too young to think about this topic, however our research and experience shows the opposite.

What do you think is the best age to start a discussion on organ donation and what is the best place to do so? At home or in school?

Works Cited

Siebelink MJ, Albers MJ, Roodbol PF, van de Wiel HB. 2012 Key factors in paediatric organ and tissue donation: an overview of literature in a chronological working model. Transplant International 25(3): 265-271.

Siebelink MJ, Albers MJ, Roodbol PF, van de Wiel HB. 2011. Children’s opinions about organ donation: a first step to assent? European Journal of Public Health, June 2011.


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2 Responses to “Consider the child: Minor donation is a major issue”
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    1. […] of all, it covers a huge range of socially relevant topics in transplantation: organ trafficking, children as donors, euthanasia, kidney paired donation, diverse populations, and much more.  Stemming from an […]

    2. […] We’ve shared the story of tweens who are powerful advocates for donation, and there is fascinating research on Dutch children as donors. Our contributors at ACLT also reported on their exciting urban youth outreach initiative.  […]



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