Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 225–236 | Cite as

Moral tales of parental living kidney donation: a parenthood moral imperative and its relevance for decision making

  • Kristin ZeilerEmail author
  • Lisa Guntram
  • Anette Lennerling
Scientific Contribution


Free and informed choice is an oft-acknowledged ethical basis for living kidney donation, including parental living kidney donation. The extent to which choice is present in parental living kidney donation has, however, been questioned. Since parents can be expected to have strong emotional bonds to their children, it has been asked whether these bonds make parents unable to say no to this donation. This article combines a narrative analysis of parents’ stories of living kidney donation with a philosophical discussion of conditions for parental decision-making. Previous research has shown that parents often conclude that it is “natural” to donate. Our study shows that this naturalness needs to be understood as part of a story where parental living kidney donation is regarded as natural and as a matter of non-choice. Our study also highlights the presence of a parenthood moral imperative of always putting one’s child’s needs before one’s own. On the basis of these results, we discuss conditions for decision-making in the context of parental LKD. We argue that the presence of a parenthood moral imperative can matter with regard to the decision-making process when parents consider whether to volunteer as living kidney donors, but that it need not hamper choice. We emphasise the need for exploring relational and situational factors in order to understand parental decision-making in the context of parental LKD.


Parental living kidney donation Narratives Parenthood Autonomy Decision-making Qualitative research Ethics Moral imperative 



We are grateful to the interviewees in the project Parental Living Kidney Donation for having shared their stories with us.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin Zeiler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lisa Guntram
    • 1
  • Anette Lennerling
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Health and Society, Department of Medical and Health SciencesLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  2. 2.The Transplant InstituteSahlgrenska University HospitalGöteborgSweden

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