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Concerns About Paid Kidney Donors May Be Unfounded

Study posing hypothetical scenarios shows payment does not affect altruistic motives

THURSDAY, March 18 (HealthDay News) -- Empirical evidence does not support theoretical concerns that paying living kidney donors may hinder altruistic donation or present unjust or undue inducement to donate, according to a study in the March 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Scott D. Halpern, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a study of 409 rail and urban trolley line passengers in Philadelphia County, of whom 342 were eligible to be kidney donors. The researchers posed a range of hypothetical scenarios in which the remuneration level, risk of developing subsequent kidney failure, and recipient of the donated kidney were manipulated.

Decreased risk of kidney failure and increased remuneration were both associated with a significantly higher willingness to donate, as was donation to a family member rather than a public waiting-list recipient, the researchers found. The data showed that remuneration did not pose an undue or unjust inducement to donate, nor did it affect respondents' willingness to altruistically donate.

"Because participants' responses to our questionnaires did not carry real-world consequences, our results are insufficient to support the establishment of a national system of regulated payments for kidney donation," the authors write. "We recommend proceeding with a highly controlled and geographically limited test of such payments that is explicitly designed to detect both intended and unintended consequences of real-world payments for living kidney donation."

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