Is it unethical for doctors to encourage healthy adults to donate a kidney to a stranger? No

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d7140 (Published 15 November 2011)
Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7140

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  1. Antonia J Cronin, clinical research consultant nephrologist12
  1. 1NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  2. 2MRC Centre for Transplantation, King’s College, London SE1 9RT, UK
  1. antonia.cronin{at}kcl.ac.uk

Walter Glannon (doi:10.1136/bmj.d7179) argues that doctors should not encourage their patients to put themselves at risk for the benefit of others, but Antonia Cronin believes that encouraging altruistic donation is legitimate

Transplants save lives. Saving life is one of the most wonderful things anyone can do for another. Last year 3740 life saving transplant operations took place in the UK.1 Since implementation of the Organ Donation Taskforce recommendations, the number of deceased organ donors has increased every year.2 Last year there was a record high of 1010.1 Despite this increase, and considerable ongoing public support and recognition of the value of organ donation and transplantation, more than 10 000 people in the UK are currently waiting for a transplant. Of these, it is estimated that 1000 people a year—that is, three every day—will die waiting for a transplant.1

High levels of diabetes and hypertension have contributed to an increased incidence of chronic kidney disease, and demand for kidney transplants. Both public health initiatives and medical research that attempt to improve the health of the population, and extend the successful long term outcome of kidney transplants, have an important role in meeting that unmet demand. So too does living donor kidney transplantation and it must remain an integral part of the NHS strategy to save lives.

Living donors

Living donor kidney transplantation …

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