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What is Living Kidney Donation?

Living kidney donation is just that – donating one kidney to someone in need (often a family member) while you are alive.

While most organs must be donated after a person has passed away, a person who is still living can choose to donate a kidney while they are alive. This is possible because almost everyone is born with two kidneys, but people can live long healthy lives with one kidney. For this reason, kidneys are the organ most transplanted from a living donor.

Who Can Be A Living Kidney Donor?

It is common for living kidney donations to be between family members. Perhaps a person’s kidneys are failing, their family members would work with the transplant hospital to see if they are a match. If there is a match and that person is healthy, they might decide to donate and save their loved one’s life.

It is also possible to donate a kidney anonymously to someone in need who you do not know. These donors are often referred to as “altruistic” donors or non-directed donors because they are not donating to a specific person, but to anyone who is a match and needs a donated kidney to live.

Qualifications for Living Kidney Donation

Transplant surgeons have performed living kidney donation surgeries successfully since the 1950’s. Since then, a wealth of knowledge has been collected and rules have been put in place to ensure that living kidney donors do not suffer side effects.

Living kidney donors should be between the ages of 18 and 70. Typically, potential donors need to be in good overall health without cancer, diabetes, kidney, heart of liver disease, sickle cell disease, HIV or hepatitis.

If these requirements are met, the potential donor would have several medical exams and blood tests done to make sure they are healthy enough for surgery. These tests would also look for underlying risks that might make it unsafe for them to donate a kidney.

In addition to looking at a person’s physical health, people considering donating a kidney are required to meet with a psychologist and an Independent Living Donor Advocate. This is meant to make sure that the person is mentally and emotionally ready to donate one of their kidneys.

Benefits of Living Kidney Donation

Not only do living kidney donation recipients get their lives back, there is some evidence that recipients of living kidneys live longer than those who receive a deceased donor kidney.

There are benefits to the person who donates as well. Living kidney donors have the unique pride of knowing they saved a life. Living kidney donors also end up with a better picture of their personal health after donation because of all the testing done to assess their health before donation.

Finally, living (and deceased) kidney donors create a personal legacy of selflessness, giving and healing that is likely to be shared by friends and family for years to come.

Learn More

If you are considering becoming a living kidney donor for someone you know, you can contact their Transplant Center to learn how to start the process or to learn more.

If you are considering donating to help anyone on the wait list who matches you, visit the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network website to find a transplant center near you.

Not ready to donate, but want to help? Register to be a donor to save lives after you have passed away.