#TransplantEthics17: Deakin Controversial Conversations Public Forum on Ethical Issues in Donation and Transplantation

Controversial Conversations Public Event, Deakin University, Burwood Campus. Saturday 28 October.

Difficulties meeting global demand for transplants through deceased donation of organs are well known. Living donors play a crucial role in helping to meet needs for kidney transplantation in Australia and around the world. More rarely, people may also donate part of their liver while alive to save the life of a loved one. In most cases, living donors are close relatives or friends of the transplant recipient, but sometimes people volunteer to donate to a complete stranger as so-called “Good Samaritan” or “Altruistic” donors.

In a recent talk at the Deakin Controversial Conversations Public Forum on Ethical Issues in Donation and Transplantation, sponsored by the Science and Society Network, Associate Professor Allison Tong from the University of Sydney spoke about ethical issues relating to public solicitation of living donors. This is a growing phenomenon in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, where people in need of a transplant take to social media, newspapers, websites and even billboards to try and recruit a living donor from the public. Although such strategies can help people to obtain transplants, they raise serious concerns about fairness – as not everyone has the resources to advertise and media appeals at times resemble a “beauty contest – and even organ trafficking, as some people may volunteer to “donate” to a wealthy stranger in the hope of receiving a financial reward.

Australia currently permits only non-directed altruistic kidney donors, that is, people who volunteer to donate anonymously to the person who is most medically suitable and next in line for a transplant. However it’s likely such practices will increase here too, and policy makers, health professionals and members of society will need to work together to establish clearer guidelines to address the risks of public solicitation while potentially harnessing the benefits it may provide.

Professor Tong’s talk was part of the Controversial Conversations Public Forum on Ethical Issues in Donation and Transplantation on Saturday 28 October at Deakin University, Burwood Campus.