An ethical dilemma: malignant melanoma in a 51-year-old patient awaiting simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplantation for type 1 diabetes

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Abstract

Malignant melanoma is a high-risk skin cancer that, in potential transplant recipients, is considered a substantial contraindication to solid organ transplantation due to significant risk of recurrence with immunosuppression.1 Current guidelines stipulate waiting between 3 and 10 years after melanoma diagnosis.1 However, in young patients with end-stage organ failure and malignant melanoma, complex ethical and moral issues arise. Assessment of the true risk associated with transplantation in these patients is difficult due to lack of prospective data, but an autonomous patient can make a decision that clinicians may perceive to be high risk. The national and worldwide shortage of available organs also has to be incorporated into the decision to maximize the net benefit and minimize the risk of graft failure and mortality. The incidence of malignant melanoma worldwide is increasing faster than that of any other cancer and continues to pose ethically challenging decisions for transplant specialists evaluating recipients for solid organ transplantation.2

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