Assessing the motives of living, non-related donors
Date of this Version
Cases such as the one described by Dr. Tan are not uncommon at transplant centers in the United States. The Internet and social media tools are now being used to facilitate access to transplantation [1, 2]. Most adults are users of the Internet in some format (e.g., web browsing, e-mail, blogs, Facebook, Twitter), so it is not surprising that it could be a resource for those with end-stage disease seeking an organ donor. Formal websites that attempt to link potential donors and patients include matchingdonors.com, kidneymitzvah.com, and kidneyregistry.org. Informal mechanisms include Internet chat rooms and message boards.
Society (and transplant centers) cannot regulate how people establish relationships, but when a donor-recipient pair comes together through Internet solicitation, the transplant center has a responsibility to evaluate the intended donation carefully, not only clinically but ethically, by assessing the donor’s motivations . Specifically, the transplant center is looking for donor candidates with altruistic rather than self-serving motivations (e.g., seeking publicity, psychological repair, monetary reward). In the United States, donors may receive reimbursement for their donation-related expenses, but they must not be paid for their organ—it is a gift.