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Open Access Short Report

The enigmatic nature of altruism in organ transplantation: a cross-cultural study of transplant physicians' views on altruism

Marie-Chantal Fortin1*, Marianne Dion-Labrie2, Marie-Josée Hébert1 and Hubert Doucet2

Author Affiliations

1 Nephrology and Transplantation Division, Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, 1560 Sherbrooke East Street, Montreal, Quebec, H2L 4M1, Canada

2 Bioethics Department, Université de Montréal, P.O. Box 6128, Downtown Station, Montreal, Quebec, H3C 3J7, Canada

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:216  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-216

Published: 30 July 2010



Although altruism is a key principle in our current organ donation and transplantation system, the meanings and implications of the term have been widely debated. Recently, a new type of living organ donation--anonymous and non-directed, also called living altruistic donation (LAD)--has brought the issue into sharper focus. Transplant physicians' views on altruism might influence their attitudes and actions toward living altruistic donors. This study aimed to explore such views among transplant physicians in France and Quebec.


A total of 27 French and 19 Quebec transplant physicians participated in individual, semi-structured interviews between October 2004 and December 2005. The majority of these participants associated altruism with gratuitousness and saw altruistic acts as multiple and varied, ranging from showing consideration to saving a person's life.


The transplant physicians' discourses on altruism were quite diverse, leading us to question the relevance of the concept in organ transplantation and the appropriateness of the term "living altruistic donation."