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The Ethics of Living Organ Donation: A Systematic Literature Review

Research Domain: 
Population Health
Community Partner: 
Mayo Clinic
Student Researchers: 
Gabrielle Knight and Azra Ariff
Faculty Mentor: 
Brad Doebbeling

There is a shortage of kidneys available for surgical transplantation in the United States. This systematic literature review seeks to presents the ethical arguments of living kidney donation. There is widespread concern that living kidney donation is unethical, because the donor is subject to physical and emotional harm.

This review analyzes all articles written in the PubMed database involving live kidney donation and ethics published from 1988-2015. Articles were examined for content and grouped over time to frame ethical arguments involving living kidney donation. Results: A total of 472 articles were pooled, 173 of which were outside of the scope of the current review’s aim. The most common theme over time was the presentation of risk. Useful articles presented ethical arguments relevant to the practice of living kidney donation.

As the population of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients continues to increase, it is becoming increasingly more important to understand ethical arguments impacting kidney donation.  An understanding of ethical barriers to kidney donation can help construct a solution for the shortage. This review was conducted to contribute to the public concern of addressing the increasing need to recruit ESRD donors by providing insight on factors contributing to donor status. In particular, the ethicality regarding organ donation was analyzed.