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Kidney to Share

Kidney to Share, The Culture and Politics of Health Care Work

Martha Gershun and John D. Lantos​

Cornell University Press

ISBN-13: ‏978-1501755439

In Kidney to Share, Martha Gershun tells the story of her decision to donate a kidney to a stranger. She takes readers through the complex process by which such donors are vetted to ensure that they are physically and psychologically fit to take the risk of a major operation. John D. Lantos, a physician and bioethicist, places Gershun's story in the larger context of the history of kidney transplantation and the ethical controversies that surround living donors. Together, they help readers understand the discoveries that made transplantation relatively safe and effective as well as the legal, ethical, and economic policies that make it feasible.

Gershun and Lantos explore the steps involved in recovering and allocating organs. They analyze the differences that arise depending on whether the organ comes from a living donor or one who has died. They observe the expertise―and the shortcomings―of doctors, nurses, and other professionals and describe the burdens that we place on people who are willing to donate. In this raw and vivid book, Gershun and Lantos ask us to consider just how far society should go in using one person's healthy body parts in order to save another person.

Kidney to Share provides an account of organ donation that is both personal and analytical. The combination of perspectives leads to a profound and compelling exploration of a largely opaque practice. Gershun and Lantos pull back the curtain to offer readers a more transparent view of the fascinating world of organ donation.


"This thoughtful book is a literate and troubled search for the lost soul of doctoring. It feels as though the author could not restrain himself from spilling onto paper what he had observed as the paradoxes and contradictinos, the triumphs and tragedies, of the practice of healing. It is worth anyone's time to read this succinct and erudite contribution to the issues of the goals of medicine and doctoring." - Journal of the American Medical Association

"For anyone who wishes a relatively brief, easy-to-read, thoughtful, and deeply penetrating examination of the issues facing medicine today, this is the book to read...John Lantos, a pediatrician, teacher, and bioethicist, opens and closes the book with unanswered questions. In doing so his purpose is 'to think about the roles and responsibilities within the ever-metastazing enterprise that we will call the health system.' Particularly, he wants to 'think about what doctors do within that system, what doctors once did, and what doctors out to do.'...In short, the author, whose religious background is Judaism, provides much food for thought for the Christian and for the medical profession." - Ethics and Medicine

"John Lantos's anecdotes and analyses reveal a thinking and compassionate physician whose heart and mind are constantly in conflict... a highly personal and pained account of the angst-ridden role of U.S. physicians in financially driven managed care systems... Lantos tackles head on such subjects as euthanasia, withdrawal of treatment, the worthiness of human life and the cost of care for patients with incurable diseases." - The Toronto Globe and Mail

About the Author

John Lantos Portrait

John Lantos grew up in the rugged mountains of western Pennsylvania coal country. His father, a physician, was his childhood hero and role model.  His mother, a poet at heart, inspired him to become a writer.  He is an award-winning pediatrician, a prolific author, a beloved teacher, and an inspirational speaker.


Lantos was a resident in DC during the national controversy about Baby Doe, a baby with Down Syndrome.  That sparked a lifelong interest in bioethics and led to a post-doc fellowship at The University of Chicago. There, his groundbreaking work on neonatal bioethics and health policy led to leadership roles as Chief of General Pediatrics and Associate Director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, and Associate Editor of Pediatrics.  Fifteen years ago, he moved to Kansas City to create and develop the Children’s Mercy Bioethics Center. 

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