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OBJECTIVE: To identify modifiable factors that influence relatives' decision to allow organ donation. DESIGN: Systematic review. DATA SOURCES: Medline, Embase, and CINAHL, without language restriction, searched to April 2008. Review methods Three authors independently assessed the eligibility of the identified studies. We excluded studies that examined only factors affecting consent that could not be altered, such as donor ethnicity. We extracted quantitative results to an electronic database. For data synthesis, we summarised the results of studies comparing similar themes. RESULTS: We included 20 observational studies and audits. There were no randomised controlled trials. The main factors associated with reduced rates of refusal were the provision of adequate information on the process of organ donation and its benefits; high quality of care of potential organ donors; ensuring relatives had a clear understanding of brain stem death; separating the request for organ donation from notification that the patient had died; making the request in a private setting; and using trained and experienced individuals to make the request. CONCLUSIONS: Limited evidence suggests that there are modifiable factors in the process of requests for organ donation, in particular the skills of the individual making the request and the timing of this conversation, that might have a significant impact on rates of consent. Targeting these factors might have a greater and more immediate effect on the number of organs for donation than legislative or other long term strategies.

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Attitude to Health, Communication, Decision Making, Family, Health Education, Humans, Patient Education as Topic, Personal Satisfaction, Professional Competence, Professional-Patient Relations, Quality of Health Care, Third-Party Consent, Time Factors, Tissue and Organ Procurement