Kidney transplant candidates' views of the transplant allocation system

J Gen Intern Med. 1997 Aug;12(8):478-84. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.1997.00086.x.


Objectives: The point system used to distribute scarce transplantable kidneys places great emphasis on antigen matching. This contributes to increased waiting times for African Americans, who have a disproportionate share of rare antigens. We conducted a pilot study to explore the understanding and attitudes of kidney transplant candidates toward the way the transplant allocation system trades off between antigen matching and waiting time.

Measurements and main results: We performed semi-structured interviews of a convenience sample of 33 patients awaiting transplants in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs. Patients had a number of misconceptions about the transplant allocation system. Many incorrectly thought, for example, that quality of life and financial status influence which patients on the waiting list receive available organs. Despite these and other misconceptions, the majority of patients thought the allocation system was fair. However, many African Americans thought the system was biased against them because of their race. After hearing about how the transplant system factors antigen matching and waiting time into organ allocation, the majority of subjects still felt the system was fair. After hearing that the emphasis on antigen matching causes African Americans to wait twice as long as whites, a larger number of subjects thought the system was unfair. Nevertheless, few thought the system should be changed. Even African American patients who felt the system was unfair still approved of the emphasis on antigen matching out of a desire to have a successful kidney transplant.

Conclusions: We found that most of the interviewed patients awaiting kidney transplant thought the system should continue to emphasize antigen matching. Although attitudes toward the allocation system differed by race, with African American patients more suspicious of the system, the importance patients placed on antigen matching did not appear to differ by race.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • HLA Antigens / immunology
  • Health Care Rationing*
  • Histocompatibility Testing
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation / immunology
  • Kidney Transplantation / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Waiting Lists


  • HLA Antigens