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Ethical Considerations Living Kidney Donor

First Living Kidney Donor’s Psychiatrist Acknowledges Ethical Dilemma

Ron Herrick became the first organ donor (and living donor) in 1954 when he donated a kidney to his identical twin brother Richard. NPR acknowledged the 50th anniversary In 2004, which contained the following case notes from Henry M. Fox, Chief of Psychiatry:

 

11/4/54

Saw this patient today and discussed the entire situation with the house staff. This is a very complex problem and there is much to be said for and against asking him to donate a kidney. In my opinion, this is primarily an ethical problem. I think we have to be careful not to be too much swayed by our eagerness to carry out a kidney transplant successfully for the first time (i.e., to succeed in having it take permanently). It seems to me, furthermore, that the potential recipient’s mental state is a subsidiary issue. The important question would seem to be whether we as physicians have the right to put the healthy twin under the pressure of being asked whether he is willing to make this
sacrifice. I do not feel that we have this right in view of the potential danger to the healthy twin as well as the uncertainty of the outcome for this patient.

 

Herrick died in late 2010 at age 79. He suffered a stroke in 2002, had been diagnosed with diabetes, was treated with dialysis three times a week, and passed away after heart surgery two months prior. His older brother attended his funeral. (See LD101 References page for source material)