Ethical Considerations Liver Donor Living Donor Research Living Donor Risks Psychosocial Risks

Liver Donors Suffer Emotionally Post-Transplant

Even I was pretty shocked by the breadth and depth of this one.

South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries perform a lot more living liver donations than the U.S. because deceased donor livers are unavailable (or in very short supply). I’ve been well aware of the possible detrimental psychological and emotional consequences of living donation (kidney and/or liver) for quite some time, but this surprised even me.

Of the 30 categories derived from the liver donors’ interviews, 27 were unambiguously negative. While it would be easy to dismiss these results with “They only talked to 10 liver donors” and “It’s only one study” or even “it’s a cultural thing”, the authors admit the results confirm what other previous researchers have found. And I’ve heard variations of these same sentiments from American living donors many times over the past six years.

In other words, this is not an aberration.


Here are some examples:

“I felt more emptiness than a sense of fulfillment of donating my liver.”

“If I had known about the physical side effects, it wouldn’t be so tough mentally. I resent that I wasn’t given information about this.”

“The donor also underwent a huge operation but all the guardians go to the recipient…” [Note: I don’t know what “guardians” refers to here, but the category was “focus on the recipient”, a sentiment I’ve heard a lot]

“I don’t believe TV anymore. It tricked us by showing a donor saying that nothing was wrong after the donation.”

“We can’t tell the recipient where we are hurting. Even if we are hurting. We have to be careful. ”

“I get really depressed. The loss of energy makes me feel really depressed.”

“Even after two years since donating my organ, I can’t sleep well and even when I do sleep, it feels like I didn’t sleep properly.”



Please click the link above and read the entire chart.

Jeong, & Yoo (2014). The psychological and mental experiences of living liver donors in South Korea Contemporary Engineering Sciences DOI: 10.12988/ces.2014.49149

Living Donor Risks Psychosocial Risks

Might Have an Anxiety Problem If….

Since the donation in 2008, I’ve developed an anxiety problem. Round about the one year mark, it was causing major impairment in my daily functioning (as the DSM likes to say), so much so that I procured a Xanax prescription from my primary care physician.

I was plagued with insomnia. And when I could sleep, my dreams were all of the being-late-for-something-important, or being-inappropriately-naked, or other Freudian what have you. When my slumber was interrupted, which was often, my head would immediately attack with whatever might’ve been making me the least bit apprehensive, thereby eliminating any possibility of returning to unconsciousness. And no matter what form it took, my fears were always about safety and security – because that’s what the experience of living donation stole from me.

For quite awhile, these bouts of panic and overwhelming worry were just as debilitating as my periods of depression or explosions of rage. Fortunately, all of these things have subsided, but not disappeared entirely.

To whit:

This morning I was jarred awake before daylight eked around the curtain. As I laid there, trying not to alert the dog to my status, I began obsessing about the smoke alarms. What should’ve been a normal mental note of “Check the battery, and find out where we stashed the one that should be in the upstairs hall” turned into a “OhMyGod, If There’s A Fire We’ll Die” and “Our Home Owner’s Insurance Won’t Cover-It Cuz Our Smoke Alarms Aren’t Working“.


My ever-patient SO knows what my early rousing means, so when he came in to kiss me before heading off to work, he said, “I hope you feel better.” I turned to him as if it was the most natural thing in the world and said, “We need to go buy a smoke detector.”

Understandably, he was very confused. But he played along, cuz that’s what you do when you’ve been with someone for twenty years. It’s too bad my neurosis makes him have to.