Study raises ethical concerns over kidney donation websites

October 17th, 2008 - 1:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 17 (IANS) Thirty-eight percent of all kidney transplants in the US are performed using living donors, but some patients who don’t have access to such donors approach websites for the organ. Now ethical questions about this practice are being raised.Although these websites, known as ‘Good Samaritan’ donors accounted only for 71 and 68 kidney donations in 2005 and 2006 in US, respectively, they represent a source of hope for patients who cannot count on their family members or social networks.

A new study focuses on the ethical issues raised by this system of recipient / donor matching by ‘Good Samaritans’. Specifically, the pursuit of living kidney donation may be based less on relevant information and more on the persuasiveness of the appeal.

Little is known about the patients who choose to solicit living donors online. The authors examined the 224 profiles of potential kidney transplant recipients who registered on the largest donor matching website.

“If one accepts that, as the waiting list grows, more and more patients will consider the public solicitation of living donors via websites like the one we reviewed, it is imperative that the transplant community begin to ask - and answer - some key questions,” said James R. Rodrigue, co-author of the study.

There are more than 75,000 individuals awaiting kidney transplantation in the US. While recent efforts to increase deceased organ donation rates and to expand deceased donation criteria are promising, many patients continue to experience long waiting times and high morbidity and mortality while waiting, according to a release on Eurekalert.

There are concerns about this practice impairing public trust in the organ allocation system, and thus indirectly reducing the total number of living and deceased kidneys donated. However, donor-recipient matching services do not currently violate existing organ allocation policies.

“It is not surprising that patients will present themselves in the most favourable light while omitting characteristics that they perceive as undesirable, as to do otherwise might reduce their success in attracting a suitable living donor,” added Rodrigue.

These findings were published in Clinical Transplantation.

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