Sage Advice: Sister's Illness Leads to Transplant Questions

By Amy Dickinson | October 31st, 2018

Family tries to help with kidney donation, to no avail


Dear Amy: My sister is receiving treatment for a chronic illness. Eventually her treatment will cease to be effective without a kidney transplant.

When she was originally diagnosed, five years ago (and from time to time since then), my family and I have expressed our wishes to her to be tested to see if we were transplant matches.

She has never provided us with transplant testing information, nor do any of us even know if she is pursuing a transplant.

She is a very private person, particularly about her health, and she resents advice or inquiries that she thinks are intrusive.

I accept that she is an adult and can make her own choices regarding her health, and information about it.

We lost our parents years ago to cancer, and our family can be overbearing and inquisitive.

Many well-meaning relatives ask me about her latest news, and they seem to think I should be pushing her more to pursue this transplant.

I would be devastated if this illness claimed her life, and I have a young son who adores her and whom she adores, not to mention all the family and friends who care about her.

Should I be doing more to advocate for my sister’s life?

– A Concerned Sister

Dear Sister: You can contact the National Kidney Foundation with questions about kidney disease, donation or transplant, by calling their hotline: (855) 653-2273 or by sending an email to

You can pursue initial information regarding live organ donation without your sister’s participation. Then, down the road, if she chooses to pursue a transplant, you will be prepared and informed.

You should not push your sister, but you should be honest with her regarding your own feelings: “I know you are private, and I know our family can be overwhelming, but I want you to know that your favorite nephew and I care so much about you, and I’m waiting in the wings to help you in any way you might want or need, now or later.”

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2018 by Amy Dickinson

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