Split liver transplantation: papering over the cracks of the organ shortage

Greg Moorlock, James Neuberger, Heather Draper

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Splitting livers allows two people (usually an adult and a child) to receive a liver transplant from one donated adult liver, but the risks to the adult recipient are greater than if they had received the equivalent whole liver. It has been suggested, therefore, that splitting livers harms adult recipients. Without liver splitting, however, there would be few livers available for children, and paediatric waiting time and waiting list mortality would significantly increase. In this paper, we argue that although splitting livers makes adults worse off, this should be considered sub-optimal benefit rather than harm. We explore justifications for sub-optimally benefitting adults in this way and consider alternatives to the current approach. We argue that splitting livers masks the more fundamental problem of low paediatric donation rates and that increasing the number of paediatric donations would improve the situation for both adult and paediatric liver patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-89
JournalClinical Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


  • Organ and tissue transplantation
  • allocation
  • donation and procurement


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