Objective: To explore whether and how people wish to give differential priority based on certain characteristics of the potential recipient of a donor kidney.
Design: A random sample of people resident in York was invited to attend two focus group meetings each, a fortnight apart.
Setting: The City of York.
Participants: Twenty-three randomly chosen people meeting in four groups of five or six.
Main outcome measures: Those factors that people think should be taken into account when allocating donor kidneys, in addition to the expected benefits from transplantation.
Results: People are willing and able to distinguish between potential recipients of a kidney transplantation according to a range of characteristics beyond the expected benefits from treatment. There is a clear consensus across the four groups that one of the most important considerations is what will happen to the patient without treatment, and so priority is given to those with a poor prognosis. There is also a strong view that priority should be given to younger patients and to those with dependants. The time spent waiting for a transplant is also important, but less so.
Conclusions: A sample of the general public, after discussion and debate, wish to take account of a number of patient characteristics when allocating donor kidneys. There is some degree of consensus about what these factors should be and this suggests that it might be possible to develop a set of guidelines for the allocation of donor kidneys.