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Allowing autonomous agents freedom


Living-donor kidney transplantation is the “gold standard” treatment for many individuals with end-stage renal failure. Superior outcomes for the graft and the transplant recipient have prompted the implementation of new strategies promoting living-donor kidney transplantation, and the number of such transplants has increased considerably over recent years. Living donors are undoubtedly exposed to risk. In his editorial “underestimating the risk in living kidney donation”, Walter Glannon suggests that more data on long-term outcomes for living donors are needed to determine whether this risk is permissible and the extent to which physicians and transplant surgeons should promote living-donor kidney transplantation.1 In this paper I argue that it is not clear that medical professionals have underestimated this risk, nor is it clear that more data on long-term outcomes are needed in order to determine whether it is permissible for individual autonomous agents to expose themselves to this or, indeed, any risk. The global shortage of organs available for transplantation ultimately means that every year thousands of individuals who value their life die needlessly. This is an unacceptable loss of human life. Saving life is one of the most wonderful things an individual can do for another. Promoting any strategy that will assist in saving life and preventing human suffering within acceptable moral limits is legitimate.

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