An ethical analysis of obesity as a contraindication of pediatric kidney transplant candidacy

Emily R. Berkman, Kelsey L. Richardson, Jonna D. Clark, André A.S. Dick, Mithya Lewis-Newby, Douglas S. Diekema, Aaron G. Wightman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The inclusion of body mass index (BMI) as a criterion for determining kidney transplant candidacy in children raises clinical and ethical challenges. Childhood obesity is on the rise and common among children with kidney failure. In addition, obesity is reported as an independent risk factor for the development of CKD and kidney failure. Resultantly, more children with obesity are anticipated to need kidney transplants. Most transplant centers around the world use high BMI as a relative or absolute contraindication for kidney transplant. However, use of obesity as a relative or absolute contraindication for pediatric kidney transplant is controversial. Empirical data demonstrating poorer outcomes following kidney transplant in obese pediatric patients are limited. In addition, pediatric obesity is distributed inequitably among groups. Unlike adults, most children lack independent agency to choose their food sources and exercise opportunities; they are dependent on their families for these choices. In this paper, we define childhood obesity and review (1) the association and impact of obesity on kidney disease and kidney transplant, (2) existing adult guidelines and rationale for using high BMI as a criterion for kidney transplant, (3) the prevalence of childhood obesity among children with kidney failure, and (4) the existing literature on obesity and pediatric kidney transplant outcomes. We then discuss ethical considerations related to the use of obesity as a criterion for kidney transplant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-356
Number of pages12
JournalPediatric Nephrology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Candidacy
  • Ethics
  • Kidney transplant
  • Obesity
  • Pediatrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Nephrology


Dive into the research topics of 'An ethical analysis of obesity as a contraindication of pediatric kidney transplant candidacy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this