What are the harms of refusing to allow living kidney donation? An expanded view of risks and benefits

Am J Transplant. 2014 Mar;14(3):531-7. doi: 10.1111/ajt.12599.


Recent Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network policies relating to living kidney donation (LKD)warrant renewed attention to the ethics of transplantation from living donors. These policies focus on risks related to potential donor evaluation, informed consent and follow-up. The ethical basis of living donation is a favorable risk/benefit ratio for the donor, but regulations and research have given less attention to the benefits of donation. Relatedly, the transplant field has also failed to consider potential harms from denying patients the opportunity to donate. These harms may be substantial in the setting of directed kidney donation to a spouse/partner, sibling or child.We argue that complete assessment of donor risks and benefits demands consideration of not only the risks and benefits of donation, but also those of refusing a donor. In contrast to the ever-expanding literature on risks of donation, there are no data describing outcomes for individuals who were turned down as kidney donors. We consider factors contributing to this omission in the transplant literature, argue that current regulations may perpetuate a narrow understanding of relevant risks and benefits in LKD, and identify areas for improvement in research and clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Graft Survival / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / therapy*
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Living Donors / ethics*
  • Living Donors / psychology
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / ethics*