Heart Health Articles

Live Liver Donation: Fears For Donor, Scotland

April 22, 2017

Patients in Scotland who need a new liver are declining living donor transplants from relatives because they see it as too much of a risk for their loved one.

This is the conclusion of Miss Lesley McGregor of the University of Stirling and colleagues at the university and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. She revealed their findings on Friday 14 September 2007, at the Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference at the University of Nottingham.

The Living Donor Liver Transplantation programme was introduced at the Scottish Liver Transplant Unit in April 2006. This was the first time this had become available on the NHS for patients needing a liver transplant but so far no patients in Scotland have pursued the option.

The researchers questioned patients who were suitable for the procedure and potential donors to discover why this was. In many regions of the world living liver donation is common.

They found that the biggest problem was that patients felt that they 'couldn't live with themselves' if anything adverse happened to the donor as a result of the operation. The risk of death for the donor in liver transplants is estimated to be between around 0.5 and 1 per cent - far higher than the risk of death in donating a kidney (0.03 per cent). In addition, the risk of complications arising from the operation is thought to be around 40-60 per cent.

In contrast, many potential donors did not appear to consider the risk involved, as they were too focused on helping their loved one survive.

Miss McGregor said: "The patients didn't want their loved ones to donate because they knew they would have to give up approximately two thirds of their healthy liver, with roughly a one in 200 chance of death. But the potential donors just wanted to help their ill relative, irrespective of the risk, which has the potential to cause significant tension within the family unit.

"We think that these results are important as we need to achieve a deeper understanding of the attitudes, concerns and risk perceptions of patients and their families faced with this type of surgical option."

British Psychological Society