July 6, 2022

What are real risks for kidney donors?

Have they been understated?

Zell KravinskyZell Kravinsky is a poster boy for bioethicist Peter Singer’s theories of
utilitarian altruism. A real estate magnate, he gave away most of his fortune to
health-related charities. Then he settled upon the ultimate donation. After
calculating the risks, he donated a kidney to a total stranger, despite protests
from his wife. Assuming that he has only a 1 in 4,000 chance of dying as a
result of the transplant, not donating meant to him that he would be treating
his life as 4,000 times more valuable than a strangers. This made him a highly attractive case for Singer, as he believed strongly in the equal value of all human
life, one of Singer’s dogmas.

However an article in the latest Journal of Medical Ethics challenges Kravinsky’s calculations and the optimistic assumption
that live donors give at very little risk to their health. "Recent data suggest
that the long-term risk in living kidney donation and the personal cost may be
higher than previously thought," writes Walter Glannon, of the University of
Calgary. Although most discussion of the risks for donors focuses on
complications from the surgery itself, they may experience significant problems
later in life, especially from diabetes and kidney failure. And in view of the
rising incidence of diabetes, Glannon suggests that the risk of donating a
kidney might be increasing. His argument has particular relevance nowadays as
living donors are being courted by transplant surgeons, hospitals, internet
registers and desperate relatives. ~ Journal of Medical Ethics, March

One thought on “What are real risks for kidney donors?

  1. I hear that one only needs one kidney to live and function and there is no danger to donating a kidney.

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