Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Live liver donation, ethics and practitioners: ‘I am between the two and if I do not feel comfortable about this situation, I cannot proceed’
  1. Elin H Thomas1,
  2. Simon R Bramhall2,
  3. Jonathan Herington3,
  4. Heather Draper3
  1. 1College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Liver Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3Medicine, Ethics, Society & History, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Elin Heledd Thomas, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK; eht836{at}


This paper discusses the views of 17 healthcare practitioners involved with transplantation on the ethics of live liver donations (LLDs). Donations between emotionally related donor and recipients (especially from parents to their children) increased the acceptability of an LLD compared with those between strangers. Most healthcare professionals (HCPs) disapproved of altruistic stranger donations, considering them to entail an unacceptable degree of risk taking. Participants tended to emphasise the need to balance the harms of proceeding against those of not proceeding, rather than calculating the harm-to-benefits ratio of donor versus recipient. Participants’ views suggested that a complex process of negotiation is required, which respects the autonomy of donor, recipient and HCP. Although they considered that, of the three, donor autonomy is of primary importance, they also placed considerable weight on their own autonomy. Our participants suggest that their opinions about acceptable risk taking were more objective than those of the recipient or donor and were therefore given greater weight. However, it was clear that more subjective values were also influential. Processes used in live kidney donation (LKD) were thought to be a good model for LLD, but our participants stressed that there is a danger that patients may underestimate the risks involved in LLD if it is too closely associated with LKD.

  • Transplantation
  • Clinical Ethics
  • Autonomy

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles

  • The concise argument
    Kenneth Boyd