Live liver donors' risk thresholds: risking a life to save a life

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There is still some controversy regarding the ethical issues involved in live donor liver transplantation (LDLT) and there is uncertainty on the range of perioperative morbidity and mortality risks that donors will consider acceptable.


This study analysed donors' inclinations towards LDLT using decision analysis techniques based on the probability trade-off (PTO) method. Adult individuals with an emotional or biological relationship with a patient affected by end-stage liver disease were enrolled. Of 122 potential candidates, 100 were included in this study.


The vast majority of participants (93%) supported LDLT. The most important factor influencing participants' decisions was their wish to improve the recipient's chance of living a longer life. Participants chose to become donors if the recipient was required to wait longer than a mean ± standard deviation (SD) of 6 ± 5 months for a cadaveric graft, if the mean ± SD probability of survival was at least 46 ± 30% at 1 month and at least 36 ± 29% at 1 year, and if the recipient's life could be prolonged for a mean ± SD of at least 11 ± 22 months.


Potential donors were risk takers and were willing to donate when given the opportunity. They accepted significant risks, especially if they had a close emotional relationship with the recipient.

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