Ethical Considerations Living Donor Research Living Kidney Donor Psychosocial Risks

Parent Kidney Donors Need Support Too

We all acknowledge that the bond between parents and children is unique. And that uniqueness spawns the idea that parents will do anything to help/save their kids, without hesitation, and without regret or negative consequences.

These beliefs, held not only by the public but by transplant professionals as well, can be problematic if/when they’re applied to other familial or emotional relationships (because again – uniqueness). More so, it ignores the variability in human beings and human interaction, assuming that all parent-child relationships are the same, as are reactions to the same event.


Three researchers thought it’d be a good idea to observe and measure some of these parents kidney donors and compare them to sibling kidney donors. The following is their published abstract (emphasis mine):



A growing body of published work suggests that the parent–child relationship can be inherently coercive, such that the expectation that a living parent will not hesitate to donate a kidney to their children, makes informed consent difficult if not impossible to ascertain. The present study was designed to explore whether the emotional response and social resources have a similar effect on health-related quality of life among parent and sibling living kidney donors.


This was a cross-sectional study. A total of 98 living kidney donors (60 parent donors, 38 sibling donors) completed an assessment including emotional response, social support and quality of life.


Depression, anxiety, subjective social support and quality of life scores were much poorer for parent than sibling donors. Parent donors also showed more anxiety and poorer physical functioning than their counterparts in the general population. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses suggested that anxiety and decreased social support in the parent group were negatively associated with physical and mental function. In the sibling group, the main indicator of improved physical state was higher education level.


Current results raised new concerns for the quality of life of parent donors as emotional response and social support differentially affected parent versus sibling quality of life. Therefore, stricter standards for physical selection, as well as emotional and supportive intervention, are needed for parent donors.




Pinhong Chen MM, Qidong Luo MM, Longkai Peng MD (2013). Anxiety and decreased social support underline poorer quality of life of parent living kidney donors Asia-Pacific Psychiatry DOI: 10.1111/appy.12087