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Keywords:

  • Donor evaluation;
  • kidney transplantation;
  • live donor transplantation;
  • policy;
  • qualitative research

Abstract

The assessment of living kidney donors presents unique ethical challenges and complex psychosocial implications. This study aimed to ascertain the perspectives of transplant nephrologists and surgeons on living kidney donor assessment. Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews were conducted with 110 transplant nephrologists and surgeons from 43 transplant units in 12 countries from Europe, Australasia and North America. The challenge of defining acceptable risk to the donor was central to five themes identified: burden of responsibility (personal accountability, policing morality, democratic decision making, meeting legal obligations, optimizing outcomes and innovation, relinquished control); medical protectiveness (prognostic uncertainty, skepticism of donor risk perception, avoidance of undue coercion, concerns for dubious motivations and coercion, safeguard donor well-being, ethical information disclosure); respecting donor autonomy (facilitate informed-decision making, concede to donor risk acceptance, benefit of the doubt, donor mandate to maintain health, acceptable altruism); driving ideologies (preserving equity, championing living donation, cognizance of anti-paternalism) and contextual pressures (evolving donor demographic, resource limitations). Living kidney donor assessment involves complex interactions between safeguarding the donors' welfare and respecting their autonomy. In our opinion, authoritative and well-described transplant unit, hospital and public policy positions that make explicit the considerations that are often implicit may reduce the uncertainty within which living donors are assessed today.