Living Kidney Donors Who Develop Kidney Failure: Excerpts of Their Thoughts

Am J Nephrol. 2016;43(6):389-96. doi: 10.1159/000446161. Epub 2016 May 25.


Background: Psychosocial data about living kidney donors have been collected for almost 5 decades now. To date, however, no study has provided any psychosocial follow-up of donors who developed a serious health problem such as end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

Methods: Donors who developed ESRD were invited to participate in a qualitative interview if they met one or both of the inclusion criteria: (1) developed ESRD within 10 years of donating and/or (2) lacked health insurance at the time of donation. We contacted 38 individuals who met these criteria, and 22 participated (58%). Two were subsequently excluded from analysis.

Results: Twenty qualitative interviews were analyzed. Five findings are described: (1) donors describe the decision-making process as spontaneous and fast; (2) donors describe lack of appreciation for the need for post-donation self-care; (3) donors do not regret donating despite the adverse outcome; (4) donors advise future donors to have in place emotional and physical support post donation; and (5) donors appreciate the opportunity to tell their story from being a living donor to living with ESRD, which virtually all perceive as 2 separate unrelated events.

Conclusions: Most donors are positive about their donation decision and experience and would donate again, despite developing ESRD themselves. They propose some important changes to the decision-making and informed-consent processes. Our data are reassuring regarding lack of donor regret, but highlight the need for living donor transplant programs to ensure that living donors understand their long-term risks and receive appropriate life-long follow-up care to minimize these risks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / psychology*
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Living Donors / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged