Living kidney donor and recipient perspectives on their relationship: Longitudinal semi-structured interviews

Angelique F. Ralph, Phyllis Butow, Jonathan C. Craig, Germaine Wong, Steve J. Chadban, Grant Luxton, Talia Gutman, Camilla S. Hanson, Angela Ju, Allison Tong

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12 Citations (Scopus)
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Background and objectives Many donors and recipients report an improved bond posttransplantation; however, unexpected conflicts and tension may also occur. Insights into the lived experiences of the donor-recipient relationship can inform strategies for interventions and support. We aimed to describe donor and recipient expectations and experiences of their relationship before and after living kidney donor transplantation. Design, setting and participants Semistructured interviews were conducted with 16 donor-recipient pairs before the transplant and 11-14 months post-transplant. Transcripts were analysed thematically. Results We identified seven themes (with respective subthemes): donation as enacting familial responsibility for care; analytical decision making to mitigate regret (avoiding anticipated regret and maintaining control, removing emotional impulsivity); strengthened interpersonal ties (gaining a deeper appreciation among family members, stronger empathy for each other, improving social participation); instability of relational impacts (anger and aggression threatening dynamics, unanticipated stress and emotional lability, triggering familial tension); renegotiating social roles (unexpected continuation of caregiving responsibilities, inability to relinquish the caregiving role, disappointment with unfulfilled renewal of intimacy, dissatisfaction over discrepant energy levels); guilt over unmet expectations and inevitability of the gift relationship (vague and transient indebtedness, expectation of reciprocity, transferring kidney ownership). Conclusions Donor-recipient relationships may be improved through increased empathy, appreciation, and ability to participate in life together; however, unfulfilled expectations and behavioural and emotional changes in recipients (a side effect related to immunosuppression) remain unresolved consequences of living kidney donor transplantation. Education and counselling to help donors and recipients adjust to potential changes in relationship dynamics may help protect and foster relational stability postdonation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number026629
Number of pages12
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2019


  • kidney donation
  • qualitative research
  • renal transplantation


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