Living Donors and the Issue of “Informed Consent”

Living Donors and the Issue of “Informed Consent”
Susan E Lederer
Hastings Center Report, November 2020; 50(6) pp 8-9
This essay considers the issue of informed consent as it arose in the context of 1960s living kidney donors. In one of the earliest empirical inquiries into informed consent, psychiatrists Carl H. Fellner and John R. Marshall interviewed donors about their decision-making process and their experience and reflections on donorship. In their much-cited 1970 paper, the physicians reported that living donors, rather than reaching a reasoned, intellectual, and unemotional decision about donating a kidney (as stipulated in the Ethical Guidelines for Organ Transplantation issued by the American Medical Association’s Judicial Council), instead made instantaneous and “irrational” decisions about participation. Fellner and Marshall’s studies contributed to the public debate and professional discussion about the moral and ethical dimensions of donorship, even as they challenged the developing consensus on informed consent.

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