Background: A United States consensus group on the live donor concluded that minors (<18 years) can ethically serve as live solid organ donors in exceptional circumstances. More recent international guidelines reject this position. Recent United Network of Organ Sharing data show that minors serve as living donors, albeit infrequently. We examined the attitudes of US physicians toward minors as living donors.
Methods: Four hundred members of the American Society of Transplantation and 160 physicians from the American Academy of Pediatrics Section of Nephrology or Bioethics were surveyed. The physicians were asked whether minors should be permitted to serve as living donors and how their opinion would change depending on the twins' zygosity, age, and increased waitlist time.
Results: One hundred seventy of 436 eligible participants (39%) returned surveys. Thirty-two and 39% of respondents would permit a kidney donation between 15-year-old fraternal and identical twins, respectively (P=NS). If the wait time increased from 1 to 6 years, willingness increased to 39% and 45%, respectively (P=NS). Pediatric bioethicists were the most reluctant to prohibit minors as living donors.
Conclusion: Approximately one-third of US physicians would permit children to serve as donors. Lengthening the wait time is associated with a trend toward greater willingness to permit minor donations. Current policies that give preferential status for a deceased donor organ to minors may help minimize donations by their minor siblings. Nontransplant physicians need education about donor risks to ensure that donations are in the best interest of pediatric donors and recipients.