“They Don’t Have to Suffer for Me”: Why Dialysis Patients Refuse Offers of Living Donor Kidneys

Abstract

In the present climate of organ shortage, high demand for kidney transplants, and better clinical outcomes from living donors, health care professionals expect and encourage patients to accept offers of living related donor (LRD) kidneys. When patients decide not to adhere to this course of treatment, scholars and policy makers may question why, given that it delays their chances of receiving a transplant. This article reports on patients’ decisions to refuse LRD kidney offers. An 18-month study was conducted of treatment decisions by hemodialysis patients (N = 79). Fewer than half of those offered an LRD kidney (N = 64) were willing to accept it, suggesting that sociocultural factors inform decisions. Patients expressed concerns about the potential donors’ well-being over their own and about compromising their relationships with the donors. This article concludes that social relations, emotions, and ethnomedical beliefs play an important role in patients’ treatment decisions and thus contributes to the anthropology of decision making.