Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

When a Gift From the Heart Is a Kidney


"It's a gray area, but I think if you look at it both from an ethics perspective, and perhaps from a basic science perspective, it's not a surprise, and it's something that people have been thinking and talking about for a long time," bioethicist Mary Faith Marshall, PhD, tells WebMD. "I actually have seen it as something inevitable and I don't see it as a bad thing. From a moral perspective I see nothing wrong with [nondirected donation] as long as there are procedural safeguards in place, and especially psychological ones, for the people who are involved." Marshall is director of the Program in Bioethics at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

Levinsky concedes that some would-be donors may indeed have altruistic motives, just as bystanders sometimes rescue complete strangers from perilous situations, and that unrelated donors may not be subject to the same pressures, overt or implicit, that a relative of a critically ill patient might be subject to. But he also points out that the rate of death from an operation to remove a kidney is low. "If 10,000 unrelated kidney donors were recruited each year, three might die, and as many as 1,000 might have various complications."

To prevent solicitation of donations by the medical community, Levinsky suggests applying the same rules that currently govern organ procurement and distribution from people who've died to the harvesting and distribution of nondirected donations. If organs were distributed according to a nationally agreed-upon formula, medical personnel at the institution where the donor surgery is performed would not necessarily expect the donated organ to go to a recipient on their own list. That could eliminate any motives, no matter how unconscious or unintended, for putting the volunteer under pressure to give up a body part.

As controversial as the idea of nondirected donation may be at present, advances that hold promise for the ability to grow new organs in the body or replace them with artificial substitutes, may in the not too distant future make ethical concerns about organ donation obsolete, Marshall tells WebMD.

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing