Moral tales of parental living kidney donation: a parenthood moral imperative and its relevance for decision making

Med Health Care Philos. 2010 Aug;13(3):225-36. doi: 10.1007/s11019-010-9238-3.


Free and informed choice is an oft-acknowledged ethical basis for living kidney donation, including parental living kidney donation. The extent to which choice is present in parental living kidney donation has, however, been questioned. Since parents can be expected to have strong emotional bonds to their children, it has been asked whether these bonds make parents unable to say no to this donation. This article combines a narrative analysis of parents' stories of living kidney donation with a philosophical discussion of conditions for parental decision-making. Previous research has shown that parents often conclude that it is "natural" to donate. Our study shows that this naturalness needs to be understood as part of a story where parental living kidney donation is regarded as natural and as a matter of non-choice. Our study also highlights the presence of a parenthood moral imperative of always putting one's child's needs before one's own. On the basis of these results, we discuss conditions for decision-making in the context of parental LKD. We argue that the presence of a parenthood moral imperative can matter with regard to the decision-making process when parents consider whether to volunteer as living kidney donors, but that it need not hamper choice. We emphasise the need for exploring relational and situational factors in order to understand parental decision-making in the context of parental LKD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation / ethics*
  • Living Donors / ethics
  • Living Donors / psychology*
  • Male
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / psychology*