An ethical analysis of obesity as a contraindication of pediatric kidney transplant candidacy

Pediatr Nephrol. 2023 Feb;38(2):345-356. doi: 10.1007/s00467-022-05572-8. Epub 2022 Apr 29.


The inclusion of body mass index (BMI) as a criterion for determining kidney transplant candidacy in children raises clinical and ethical challenges. Childhood obesity is on the rise and common among children with kidney failure. In addition, obesity is reported as an independent risk factor for the development of CKD and kidney failure. Resultantly, more children with obesity are anticipated to need kidney transplants. Most transplant centers around the world use high BMI as a relative or absolute contraindication for kidney transplant. However, use of obesity as a relative or absolute contraindication for pediatric kidney transplant is controversial. Empirical data demonstrating poorer outcomes following kidney transplant in obese pediatric patients are limited. In addition, pediatric obesity is distributed inequitably among groups. Unlike adults, most children lack independent agency to choose their food sources and exercise opportunities; they are dependent on their families for these choices. In this paper, we define childhood obesity and review (1) the association and impact of obesity on kidney disease and kidney transplant, (2) existing adult guidelines and rationale for using high BMI as a criterion for kidney transplant, (3) the prevalence of childhood obesity among children with kidney failure, and (4) the existing literature on obesity and pediatric kidney transplant outcomes. We then discuss ethical considerations related to the use of obesity as a criterion for kidney transplant.

Keywords: Candidacy; Ethics; Kidney transplant; Obesity; Pediatrics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Contraindications
  • Ethical Analysis
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Pediatric Obesity*
  • Renal Insufficiency*