The experiences of commercial kidney donors: thematic synthesis of qualitative research

Allison Tong, Jeremy R Chapman, Germaine Wong, Nicholas B Cross, Pikli Batabyal, Jonathan C. Craig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Commercial transplantation has expanded because of the shortage of kidneys for transplantation. This study aims to synthesize qualitative studies on the experiences and perspectives of living commercial kidney donors. We conducted a comprehensive literature search in electronic databases to April 2011 and consulted experts to identify unpublished studies. Thematic synthesis was used to analyze the findings. Seven studies involving over 676 commercial kidney donors were included. Three major themes were identified: desperation (the participants' decision to sell their kidney was forced by poverty, debt, or to fulfill a family obligation); despair (destroyed body integrity, shame and secrecy, dehumanized and dispirited, loss of livelihood, heightened sense of vulnerability, disappointment, and regret); and debasement (deception by brokers and recipients, victimized by the hospital, stigmatized by community, and rejected by family). Commercial kidney transplantation is reported to result in ramifications for the donors' mental, physical, and social well-being. Not only do they remain in poverty, they lose dignity, sense of purpose, respect, relationships, and livelihood. Review of this published literature supports the need for effective implementation of the WHO guiding principles and legislated regulation to deter potential recipients and healthcare providers from pursuing commercial transplantation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1138-1149
Number of pages12
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • kidney transplantation
  • commercial transplantation
  • live donors
  • quality of life
  • qualitative research


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