Living donor liver transplantation and its effect on the donor-recipient relationship--a qualitative interview study with donors

Clin Transplant. Jun-Jul 2009;23(3):382-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-0012.2008.00948.x.


An important aspect in the preoperative evaluation and a legal precondition for an living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) is a family or emotionally close relationship between donor and recipient. We investigated the development of the donor-recipient relationship after LDLT. We conducted semi-structured clinical interviews with 18 donors as part of a regular postoperative follow-up and analyzed them using the method of Grounded Theory. The donation does not lead to any major changes in the donor-recipient relationship, probably due to careful pre-selection. It does however enhance the existing positive or conflicting character of the relationship. Donors sometimes downplay negative aspects in the relationship and emphasize the improvement as a way of dealing with a major life event. A donation cannot fulfill expectations linked to it and it is unfavorable to be used to improve the relationship. Potential misuse or instrumentalization of the donation by the donor are possible. Postoperative feelings of gratitude are an issue after surgery. A good relationship enhances a better management of the postoperative course. The preoperative donor-recipient relationship should be as free of conflict as possible. A thorough preoperative evaluation of the donor-recipient relationship is particularly important to assess the donors' suitability and clarify conflicts and unrealistic expectations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Family Relations*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Living Donors*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged