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Does My Race & Ethnicity Matter in Organ Donation?

The short answer: maybe.

Although organs are not matched by race and ethnicity, and people of different races frequently match one another, all individuals waiting for an organ transplant will have a better chance of receiving a transplant if there are large numbers of donors from their racial or ethnic background. This is because compatible blood types and tissue markers—critical qualities for donor and recipient matching—are more likely to be found among members of the same ethnicity. So, more diversity in the donor pool helps everyone.

Currently, ethnic minorities are in desperate need of more organ, eye and tissue donors. They represent about 60% of the national organ transplant waiting list but only about 30% of actual donors.*

This means greater diversity of donors could increase access to transplantation for everyone.

How Are Organs Matched?

When a person passes away and becomes a donor, medical information such as blood type, body size and location of the hospital is entered into the National transplant database. The database then creates a list of individuals on the Waiting List who would best match the donor. Unique lists are created for each donor and each organ. Additional information about the allocation process can be found here.

Organs from every donor are matched with people on the waiting list based on:

  • blood type
  • body size
  • how sick they are
  • donor distance
  • tissue type
  • and time on the waiting list

Again, although ethnicity, gender, religion and financial status are not part of the organ transplant matching system and people of different races frequently match one another. A greater diversity of donors may potentially increase access to transplantation for everyone. Register today!

What About People with Multi-Racial Backgrounds?

The process for identifying donor and recipient matches is the same for everyone. While a variety of racial combinations makes an individual unique, finding a donor or recipient match will always be based on the medical factors listed above (for example, blood type).

*These numbers are as of May, 2021. Please visit the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network website for updated numbers.