Better the donor you know? A qualitative study of renal patients' views on ‘altruistic’ live-donor kidney transplantation

Phillippa Bailey, Yoav Ben-Shlomo, Isabel O C de Salis, Charles Tomson, Amanda L Owen-Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
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In the UK there is a short-fall between individuals requiring a renal transplant and kidneys available for transplantation. Non-directed ‘altruistic’ living kidney donation has emerged as a strategy for bridging this gap between supply and demand, with the number increasing each year.


This study aimed to explore the views of potential recipients towards non-directed ‘altruistic’ live-donor kidney transplantation.


Semi-structured interviews with 32 UK deceased-donor kidney transplant recipients were performed. Interviews explored willingness to consider directed and non-directed live-donor kidney transplants (LDKTs). Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and transcripts were analysed using the constant comparison method described in Grounded Theory.


For those not willing to accept a non-directed ‘altruistic’ LDKT, the following themes were identified: i) Prioritising other recipients above self; ii) Fear of acquiring an unknown donor's characteristics, and iii) Concern for the donor – unnecessary risk. For those willing to accept a non-directed ‘altruistic’ LDKT the following themes were identified: iv) Prioritising known above unknown persons, v) Belief that they are as deserving as other potential recipients, and vi) Advantages of a LDKT.


Drawing on ‘gift exchange theory’, this study contributes to our understanding of the experience of the intended recipient of a gift. The anonymity of the donor-recipient appears to be seen as a benefit of non-directed ‘altruistic’ live-donor transplants, freeing recipients from the obligations of the gift. However, those who feel unworthy of the ‘gifted transplant’ are concerned about the donor and by the lack of opportunity for direct reciprocity. Highlighting the ‘reciprocal benefits’ reported by donors may allow individuals whose preference is a live-donor transplant to accept one if offered. These insights provide the transplant community with targets for intervention, through which the concerns of potential recipients might be addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-111
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date28 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2015

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Surgical Research


  • Non-directed 'altruistic'
  • Non-directed
  • Altruistic
  • Living kidney donation
  • Qualitative research
  • Gift exchange


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